Marijuana: Amendment 64 opponents dub Tony Ryan, decorated Denver officer, a rent-a-cop
Yesterday, the backers of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, held a press event at which retired Denver Police Lieutenant Tony Ryan appeared alongside other law-enforcement representatives who support the measure. Afterward, the head of the main anti-64 group dubbed him a "pro-pot rent-a-cop" -- a designation that confuses Ryan even as it offends the Regulate campaign as a whole.
Big photos below.
A 36-year veteran of the Denver Police Department, Ryan was joined at the Denver City and County Building get-together by fellow members of the national organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), among others. A statement from him released afterward offers a good sense of his sentiments. It reads: "Law enforcement officers know better than anyone that keeping marijuana illegal and unregulated means the gangs and cartels that control the illegal trade win, and the rest of us lose. Our current marijuana laws distract police officers from doing the job we signed up for -- protecting the public by stopping and solving serious crimes. They also put us at risk by forcing us to deal with an underground marijuana market made up of gangsters, cartels and other criminals."
Afterward, Roger Sherman, campaign director for Smart Colorado, the No on 64 organization, released comments of his own. They begin: "Today's endorsement by two out-of-state law enforcement organizations and a pro-pot rent-a-cop pales in comparison to the dozens of county sheriffs, chiefs of police, district attorneys and school resource officers that are publically opposed to Amendment 64." See the entire release below.
Today, Amendment 64's Mason Tvert fired back, characterizing Sherman's statement as a "smear" on a decorated cop. Tvert writes: "During his service, Lt. Ryan was one of the first Denver Police Department Medal of Honor recipients, as well as a recipient of the DPD Purple Heart after being shot while on duty. He also received a Merit Award for being an immediate responder to the Columbine High School shooting, the Footprinter's Award for his outstanding performance as a Denver police officer, and DPD's Community Service Award." This release is below in its entirety as well.
What's the man caught in the middle of this political sniping think about the "rent-a-cop" designation? Ryan dismisses the idea that Sherman is likening him to the sort of private security officers who work at malls and other businesses. Instead, he assumes he's being accused of sharing his views in exchange for cash -- which he says he's not.
"He's implying that I get paid for doing this, and I don't," Ryan stresses. "I get nothing for doing this. I just believe we need a change in policy, and since marijuana is the drug than seems to be the most enforced, changing how we deal with that would make a huge difference."
Ryan saw plenty of action during his DPD career -- "getting shot, getting stabbed, getting bitten, a couple of broken bones," he reveals as casually as if he's talking about what he had for breakfast this morning. "The fact that I got some awards is nice," he adds, "but to me, it's about being at the right or wrong place at the right or wrong time and reacting appropriately -- getting the job done when something happens."
From his perspective, though, spending resources on marijuana enforcement makes handling the big crimes more difficult. It's a conclusion he reached decades ago, he says.
Continue to read more of our interview with retired Denver Police Lieutenant Tony Ryan.