Craig A local drug task force accused of wrongdoing by a Denver-based organization lobbying for pro-marijuana legislation denied Friday that it violated state campaign laws.
The Alcohol-Marijuana Initiative committee, a branch of the group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, filed an open records request with the Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team earlier this month.
The group filed the request in hopes of learning whether GRAMNET violated a campaign law by spending more than $50 to prepare and distribute a release that sharply criticizes Amendment 44 - a November ballot question that proposes legalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana - and urged residents to vote against it.
The release included a section called "The Truth about Marijuana," and was attributed to eight officials in Moffat and Routt counties.
GRAMNET responded to SAFER's allegations, and records request, on Friday.
"In no way did we breach that $50 threshold," said Dusty Schulze, GRAMNET task force commander. "We hope this issue is resolved. We obviously didn't do anything incorrect or break any laws."
In the response issued Friday, addressed to the public, media and SAFER's attorney, Robert J. Corry, Jr., Schulze wrote that information used in GRAMNET's release was taken directly from data used by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area organization and the Web site www.stop44.org. GRAMNET had permission to use the information, Schulze wrote.
Schulze also said he was the only person who produced and was responsible for the anti-Amendment 44 release, a direct rebuttal of SAFER's contention that several officials helped produce the documents.
"In my best estimation, collectively less than one hour of total time was spent on preparing, distributing, approving and disseminating this informational document," Schulze wrote.
GRAMNET also justified its release by stating that it falls in line with their mandate of providing educational information and training to the public, a requirement for the group to receive Justice Administration Grant funding.
"Educational information provided in the press release addressing Amendment 44 meets and exceeds this grant requirement," the task force commander wrote.
Schulze also told Corry, SAFER's attorney, that he is researching what "documents or drafts, if any, are available and will forward those to you as soon as they become available."
Amendment 44 proposes to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for anyone 21 or older. GRAMNET contends that the measure allowing marijuana use hinders police and families, gives free reign to drug dealers, and provides children with easy access to a dangerous and addictive drug.
On the other side of the argument is SAFER, and its campaign director, Mason Tvert.
Tvert has been a vocal proponent of Amendment 44, and was chastised by local law enforcement officers on Wednesday during a campaign gathering in Craig for Colorado Attorney General John Suthers.
He contends that the bill is designed to put adult marijuana use on the same plateau as adult possession and consumption of alcohol. His organization also views marijuana as less harmful than drinking alcohol.
On Friday, he said his organization would not take GRAMNET to court for records pertaining to its anti-Amendment 44 press release. Earlier in the week, Corry said the group would sue for access to records if GRAMNET did not comply with SAFER's request.
"We're not about to spend money or time on this," Tvert said. "Nothing would be solved until after the election anyway. : We were trying to make a point that law enforcement may have broken the law to keep people from breaking the law.
"It seems clear that GRAM-
NET is aware that they were close to breaking the law. Did they really just spend one hour on this document? I guess we will never know. But, we will certainly pursue this matter further if they spend additional tax dollars on campaign activities."
Although it appears SAFER's quarrel with GRAMNET is over, its push for records is not.
The group announced Friday that it will file another open records request on Monday with the Mesa County Meth Task Force, seeking all records pertaining to the organization of a meth conference in Grand Junction. Suthers, along with Scott Burns, deputy director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, attended the conference and expressed opposition to Amendment 44.
"The government - especially members of the law enforcement community - should be carrying out and enforcing the laws, not interfering in the making of them," Tvert said. "After all, these officials are breaking more laws than anyone who simply uses marijuana in private."
Schulze said he believed SAFER's open records request was a misguided attempt to find wrongdoing where none existed, and a power grab for attention.
"I think maybe they jumped the gun," he said. "Had they called, we could have talked to them about it. I felt like it was all kind of inflammatory."