Amendment 64: Manager of Safety predicts law enforcement "turmoil" if it passes
Alex Martinez, Denver's Manager of Safety, does not want to weigh in on the policy debates around Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which has only added to the national attention Colorado is getting this election.
But, he tells us, one thing is clear: If it passes, there's likely to be a lot of chaos for officials charged with enforcing an amendment that would regulate recreational marijuana and thus contradict federal law.
Last week, we sat down with Martinez on the eve of his one-year anniversary with the city's Department of Safety, which has civilian authority over Denver's police, fire and sheriff departments. Among other things, he discussed police brutality with us, offering his take on how the city has handled various high-profile misconduct cases.
But we also had a chance to ask him about Amendment 64, which would make small amounts of marijuana legal for adults in Colorado, a state where medicinal marijuana dispensaries have already clashed with federal law enforcement.
Sam Levin Alex Martinez in his office last week.
Many of Martinez's colleagues have come out in opposition of Amendment 64 for a variety of reasons. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said it would have a negative impact on youth and Governor John Hickenlooper compared teen pot use to underage drinking. Opponents have also said they don't want Denver to be known as a mecca for pot, though Denver Police Chief Robert White once called the city a marijuana "capital."
When asked about the prospects of Amendment 64 passing, Martinez declined to share his personal opinion. "I'm reluctant to go there...because I'm a representative of the mayor.... The mayor is the elected official here, and the mayor has taken the position he has and talked about that position, and I just wouldn't want to say anything that is in any way taken as different from that."
But from a basic law enforcement standpoint, what does he think about questions of how the passage of Amendment 64 would play out, given that marijuana would be legal here but remain illegal on a national level?
On that matter, Martinez, a former Colorado Supreme Court justice, offered some insight.
"I would say that it's hard to imagine all of the spins of problems that would be created and how they should be handled," he noted, "Because...there will be conflicting laws. There will be conflicting obligations of law enforcement officials. There will be sort of a need for a lot of regulation and an opportunity for a lot of regulation, which would be a real challenge, and the potential that that falls short and then falls from state to local hands. Yeah, there will be a lot of turmoil, there's no question about that."
He continued, "I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Quite frankly, that's what the police department does best -- deal with turmoil. So I guess I'm not concerned at an alarm-level. But does it have a tremendous impact?... It would be tremendous change, and so will that be very unsettling and cause a lot of difficulties? Of course."
Continue for more of the Manager of Safety's insight on the challenges of enforcing Amendment 64.