As they say, I have no dog in this fight. After 36 years I’m leaving this fair city to reside on a farm in rural southwest Ohio. However, after more than 30 years of practicing criminal law (most of which as a deputy state public defender for all of Northwest Colorado) and representing folks charged with first-degree murder to petty offenses and everything in between, I would like to share my experience on the marijuana dispensary issue.
Law enforcement (Letter to the editor: “Vote to ban marijuana centers,” Sept. 30 Steamboat Today) singles out the medical marijuana dispensaries as contributing to the illicit use of marijuana with our youths and others. They cite as proof two individuals with (apparently) medical marijuana and not being a cardholder or too young to have a card. That’s it? They also cited a person involved in a fatal accident who apparently had marijuana in his or her system. From a dispensary? In what amount (marijuana stays in one’s system for up to 30 days)? Or was that individual illegally passing on a curve, over the double-yellow line and marijuana had no effect whatsoever?
Of those charged with driving under the influence of drugs (DUID), what are the raw numbers? How many had marijuana found in their systems and in what amount? How many were stopped for a broken taillight as opposed to those involved in an accident? At the same time, how many were charged with driving under the influence of or impaired by the consumption of alcohol? Read the police blotter in this paper and judge for your self.
Instead of joining in what seems to be the “reefer madness” hysteria that seems to be present in this community, the law enforcement folks dwell on the wrong topic. Alcohol is a major problem to law enforcement and society as a whole, and yet they mention alcohol only in passing. They know, as I do, that alcohol is involved in the greatest percentage of criminal acts, not to mention the associated societal and medical costs. In all the years of practicing criminal law in Northwest Colorado (and the Denver area and Glenwood Springs) I never represented anyone who committed a violent crime of any kind, including any form of homicide, while under the influence of marijuana. Almost without exception, however, alcohol was involved.
Am I advocating the use of marijuana? No. However, for law enforcement to claim, as they do, that marijuana will seemingly no longer be prevalent in this valley when medical marijuana dispensaries are banned is nonsense. It was here in 1975 when I moved here, and it will be here long after I leave, dispensaries or not.
Go ahead with alcohol and marijuana education (not the reckless, hysterical sort) and treatment. But let’s not lose sight of the tremendous individual and societal costs of alcohol abuse of which the use of marijuana pales by comparison.
William S. Schurman