Local law enforcement officers: Vote ‘no’ on Amendment 64 | SteamboatToday.com

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Local law enforcement officers: Vote ‘no’ on Amendment 64

We are law enforcement leaders in Moffat, Routt and Grand counties who want to express our concerns about Amendment 64, the effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado.

First, we are concerned about any steps that might increase use of marijuana among children. Studies indicate that increased availability and increased perceptions of acceptability will increase underage use of marijuana, which already accounts for 67 percent of teenage substance abuse treatment in America. The evidence also is compelling to us that marijuana is a gateway drug that leads to use and abuse of even more dangerous drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine. Because of the permanent, lifelong debilitating effects of marijuana on young people, we are gravely troubled about Amendment 64's potential long-term harm to our community's youth.

Second, the argument that the government should tax marijuana like alcohol and tobacco and use those tax revenues to address the potential impacts totally overlooks how little tax revenue actually is collected compared to the social costs of alcohol and tobacco use. In the U.S., the estimates are that communities spend $185 billion to address alcohol use but collect only $14.5 billion in tax revenues, or less than 10 percent. Costs of tobacco use are estimated at $200 billion, yet we collect only $25 billion in tax revenues, or about 12 percent. Consequently, we are concerned about the increased costs our community will be asked to bear from legalized marijuana, such as increases in drug-impaired driving, on top of the social costs we already carry from alcohol and tobacco use.

Third, it has taken our state government several years to begin to regulate medical marijuana, and we are concerned that even now, enforcement resources for medical marijuana are insufficient. As a result, we are concerned that the time that it would take state authorities to build the structure to regulate a legalized marijuana industry will allow drug cartels and other criminal organizations to continue their penetration of that industry in Colorado. Significant evidence exists that these organizations use the medical marijuana umbrella to grow and ship marijuana to other states where it remains illegal. We are gravely concerned that Amendment 64 will open even further the opportunities for these illegal organizations to burrow into Colorado and use their bases here to expand illegal marijuana use across the country. We do not want marijuana to be what Colorado is best known for in America.

Some have argued that enforcement resources should not be directed to simple marijuana possession. We can assure you that our drug enforcement efforts focus on the most dangerous drugs in our communities — methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine — and not simple marijuana possession, which is a petty offense in Colorado.

As law enforcement leaders who have devoted their lives to the safety of our wonderful community in Northwest Colorado, we urge you to give careful consideration to Amendment 64. Ultimately, we ask you to vote "no" on Amendment 64.

■ Brett Barkey, 14th Judicial District Attorney

■ Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins

■ Steamboat Springs Police Chief Joel Rae

■ Hayden Police Chief Gordon Booco

■ Oak Creek Police Department officers Ed Corriveau and Bobby Rauch

■ Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta

■ Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz

■ Grand County Sheriff Rodney Johnson

■ Granby Police Chief William Housley