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Marijuana: Amendment 64 blasted by Douglas County sheriff, Mason Tvert responds

The powers-that-be in Douglas County really, really oppose Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. Yesterday, the Dougco commissioners passed a strongly worded resolution against the measure, while Sheriff David Weaver launched a salvo that paints a world in which Amendment 64 is law as downright apocalyptic; see both below. It's a hysterically inaccurate portrait, argues proponent Mason Tvert.

The resolution, signed by commission chair Jack Hilbert, employs the typical "whereas" format for such documents -- and most of the clauses that follow this word suggest disaster should the majority of Coloradans allow adults to possess and use small amounts of cannabis. The commissioners argue that the amendment "fails to protect the health, safety and welfare of Colorado citizens" because it lacks standards against "harmful contaminants and disease," "conflicts with federal law and jeopardizes federally funded projects because drug-free workplace requirements may not be met," and "suggests that Colorado is on tract [sic] to become a primary source of supply for high-grade marijuana throughout the country."

Douglas County Commisioners Steven Boand, Jill Repella and Jack Hilbert.
Douglas County Commisioners Steven Boand, Jill Repella and Jack Hilbert.

In addition, the commissioners pick up a theme struck by Governor John Hickenlooper in his 64-opposition statement: They believe the initiative "would harm Colorado's image as a healthy place to live, work and raise a family."

Still, these assertions are low-key in comparison with those made by Sheriff Weaver, whose statement cites "harmful consequences" that will likely come to pass should Amendment 64 win approval. According to him, "Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana and pot for sale everywhere. I think our entire state will pay the price."

Weaver's office reenforces this conclusion via twenty bullet points grouped under three headings: "It's Bad For Our Kids," "It's Bad For Our Community" and "It's Against the Law." Most of them include links, many of them from Healthy and Drug Free Colorado, a website affiliated with the Colorado Drug Investigators Association, which recently released a worst-case-scenario study of mold at marijuana grows that our William Breathes dubbed "clown science."

In addition, there's one link to Smart Colorado, the official No on 64 campaign, and lots of Denver Post articles, a number of them fairly long in the tooth. For instance, the claim that there are more dispensaries in Denver than Starbucks, liquor stores or public schools is based on a 2010 article whose MMC numbers are now notably out of date.

Still, most of the the nightmare scenarios are speculative -- like generically credited police predictions that the passage of Amendment 64 will result in more burglaries, robberies, illegal pot rings and homicides.

What's 64 backer Tvert got to say about that?

Continue to read Tvert's response, and to see arguments against Amendment 64 from the Douglas County sheriff and commissioners.

 

Corresponding via e-mail, Tvert offered a statement responding to the commissioners' resolution and the Weaver release, followed by a detailed, point-by-point refutation of the assorted claims.

Here's Tvert's statement:

"We are sorry to hear that Sheriff Weaver and our opponents were able to convince the commissioners to continue using the county's limited law enforcement resources to punish adults who choose to use a substance proven to be less harmful than alcohol, as opposed to focusing them on violent crimes and more dangerous drugs.

"It makes sense that Sheriff Weaver would prefer marijuana be produced and sold by drug cartels and other criminals -- it allows him to continue arresting people, seizing assets, and padding his budget. But it's odd that the commission would want to go along with it. They must realize marijuana is already universally available and in high demand, so we cannot imagine why they'd prefer to keep it in an underground market where it is entirely uncontrolled. They have literally endorsed a system that funnels profits to criminal enterprises instead of legitimate Colorado businesses, and makes marijuana far more accessible to young people. If the goal is to control marijuana, reduce crime, and protect our youth, marijuana should be sold in a tightly regulated market, such as that proposed by Amendment 64."

Tvert's conclusion: "Law enforcement officials pretend to care about eliminating the underground market, but they have made zero progress toward that goal over the past forty years. It has only grown larger over time."

Continue reading to see the Douglas County Sheriff's Office release, Mason Tvert's point-by-point response and the Dougco commissioners resolution.

 

Douglas County Sheriff's Office release:

Douglas County Sheriff votes NO to make pot legal across CO

It's bad for our kids, our community and is against federal law, Sheriff says

This November, residents will vote on ballot measure Amendment 64, which would make it legal for any adult to have and use marijuana. It could also make Colorado the only state in the nation where it's legal to ingest, grow, sell or give away an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

"If voters pass this amendment, I believe there will be many harmful consequences," Douglas County Sheriff David A. Weaver said. "Expect more crime, more kids using marijuana and pot for sale everywhere. I think our entire state will pay the price. Please join me in voting against Amendment 64 in November."

Sheriff Weaver formed his opinion after a careful study of the issues and facts. The Douglas County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution on September 26, 2012 opposing Amendment 64. The Colorado Educators Association is also against it

what you should know ABOUT AMENDMENT 64

IT'S BAD FOR OUR KIDS

• A new study says teens who regularly use marijuana have lower IQs long-term.

• People ages 12 to 17 are more likely to use marijuana in states that permit it than in states that don't, according to Columbia University research.

• In Colorado, a 2011 study found nearly 40 percent of high school students use marijuana. Nine percent of those kids tried it before they were 13.

• If the amendment passes, experts predict the number of regular users will at least double and likely triple in the most vulnerable 12 to 25 age range.

• Each year, 60 percent of all new marijuana users are under age 18.

• Treatment and addiction rates would rise. Marijuana dependency is the number one reason why teens in Colorado seek substance-abuse treatment. Reports show kids who try pot are two-to-three times more likely to use other drugs, including tobacco, cocaine and heroin.

• Since 2008, drug-related suspensions at Colorado public schools have increased 45 percent, which the CO Department of Education attributes to marijuana use.

• How do kids say "No to drugs" when adults don't? If parents use it, kids will too.

IT'S BAD FOR OUR COMMUNITY

• Today's marijuana is more addictive than ever -- it's 10-20 times more potent than during the 60's, according to nationwide tests of the drug.

• Colorado will be known as "Pot Capital, USA." In Denver alone, there are already more dispensaries than Starbucks, liquor stores or public schools, according to a 2010 Denver Post investigation. If legal, the number of dispensaries, growing and manufacturing facilities is expected to explode.

• A study estimates the state would generate $14 million a year and save law enforcement $12 million a year in the beginning, with up to $40 million a year in later years. However, opponents say that money will cover only 15% of the collateral costs to our community such as: increased drug treatment, emergency room visits, crime, traffic accidents and school 'drop-outs' to name just a few.

• Economic losses. A work force that regularly uses marijuana is tardy, calls in sick, has more on-the-job accidents and is less productive than non-using workers. Businesses would be less likely to stay or move into a state where drug use related risks are high, according to a report by Healthy and Drug Free Colorado.

• Deaths from impaired driving would increase. About 50 people are killed in traffic accidents every year by drivers in Colorado under the influence of marijuana. Experts predict the number of deaths would double.

• Supporters say marijuana would be regulated just like alcohol. But the federal government concludes the societal costs of treating alcohol and tobacco use far exceeds the revenue from taxing those drugs. The health cost from smoking cigarettes is about $7 per pack, while the revenue from taxing cigarettes is about $2 per pack, according to Ken Buck, District Attorney of Weld County.

• 80% of cities and towns across Colorado have already kicked out dispensaries because of crime, negative perception and lower property values. If Amendment 64 passes, suppliers could grow in residential areas as a Constitutional right.

• Recent studies find marijuana use may cause or worsen mental health problems. Two 2010 reviews say it may bring on the disorders or worsen symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis, particularly in young people.

• Despite what users claim, Children's Hospital Boston concludes marijuana is highly addictive. It affects vision, memory, motor coordination and judgment.

IT'S A CRIME

• Federal law bans marijuana in Colorado regardless of Amendment 64. If it passes, Colorado's recreational pot users will believe they're protected by law, but they may be subject to federal prosecution. The federal government could arrest users, sellers and buyers, according to the Colorado Independent.

• Crimes connected to medical marijuana have increased since it became legal for patients. Police say there will only be more burglaries, robberies, illegal pot rings and homicides if voters approve the ballot measure.

• Federal agents say international drug cartels are already in Colorado supplying, funding and running dispensaries. Agents expect cartels will expand their criminal operations if every adult is allowed to use marijuana in Colorado.

Mason Tvert response to Douglas County Sheriff's Office release:

IT'S BAD FOR OUR KIDS

A new study says teens who regularly use marijuana have lower IQs long-term.

Under Amendment 64, marijuana remains entirely illegal for those under 21 years of age. It's time for Sheriff Weaver and his cohorts to stop hiding behind children and join us in the actual debate about whether adults who are of age to consume alcohol should be made criminals for using a far less harmful product. In fact, it's worth noting that the researcher who conducted the study cited by Sheriff Weaver reported that, based on her research, she is "fairly confident cannabis is safe for over-18 brains."

People ages 12 to 17 are more likely to use marijuana in states that permit it than in states that don't, according to Columbia University research.

Research conducted by a health economist at the University of Colorado Denver in conjunction with researchers in Oregon and Montana concluded that "there's no statistical evidence that legalization increases the probability of use." They also noted that "the data often showed a negative relationship between legalization and marijuana use." This has been Colorado's experience with medical marijuana. The latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control found that marijuana use among high school students decreased 11% since the state began regulating medical marijuana, whereas it has increased 11% nationwide where marijuana remains entirely unregulated. Our opponents try to shrug this off as "statistically insignificant," but according to the UCD health economist, regardless of whether there has been a decrease, "the data provide no evidence that marijuana use increased among Colorado high school students from 2009 to 2011." As for the study cited by Sheriff Weaver, it's interesting that he failed to mention one of its key conclusions: "Our findings do not necessarily indicate a causal effect of legalization of medical marijuana on marijuana use or marijuana abuse/dependence."

In Colorado, a 2011 study found nearly 40 percent of high school students use marijuana. Nine percent of those kids tried it before they were 13.

Yet another disingenuous scare tactic from Sheriff Weaver. He makes it sound like 40% of high school students currently use marijuana, whereas that figure actually represents the percentage of high school students in Colorado who have ever tried marijuana, even if it was just once and they never did again. Also, it's worth noting that -- even though our opponents like to say medical marijuana and other marijuana reform efforts are to blame for this 40% figure -- the same survey shows that the percentage of students who have tried marijuana in Colorado is lower than many states, such as South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, and Texas, among others. More importantly, nobody wants teens using marijuana; there are just a whole lot of people who believe regulating marijuana would more effectively reduce teen use than leaving marijuana entirely uncontrolled.

If the amendment passes, experts predict the number of regular users will at least double and likely triple in the most vulnerable 12 to 25 age range.

Experts? Please note Sheriff Weaver is citing a handout produced by the Colorado Drug Investigators Association, a trade group for narcotics officers, which fails to cite a source for this bold prediction. Not only is the CDIA biased because of their vehement opposition to Amendment 64, they make a living off of investigating and arresting people for marijuana-related offenses. The end of marijuana prohibition equates to the loss of funding and resources that come with it. I think it's safe to say that the U.S Centers for Disease Control and academic research are a better source of objective and accurate information.

Each year, 60 percent of all new marijuana users are under age 18.

Once again, Sheriff Weaver cites a source who is part of the opposition to Amendment 64. In fact, she is one of their campaign's lead spokespeople, and he is citing a public speech she made. I wasn't there to see it -- they wouldn't let me in -- but cannot fathom this was an objective presentation. Regardless, our federal government reports that marijuana is almost universally available to high school students under our current system of prohibition. Given it's failure to reduce supply or demand, and its tendency to make marijuana more available to younger people, does this really come as a surprise?

Treatment and addiction rates would rise. Marijuana dependency is the number one reason why teens in Colorado seek substance-abuse treatment. Reports show kids who try pot are two-to-three times more likely to use other drugs, including tobacco, cocaine and heroin.

This time Sheriff Weaver cites non-objective opponents of Amendment 64, even going so far as to simply citing the front page of the No on 64 campaign's website.

Since 2008, drug-related suspensions at Colorado public schools have increased 45 percent, which the CO Department of Education attributes to marijuana use.

Once again, he cites a handout from the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. This statistic has been called into question because 1) it is not specific to marijuana, and 2) the Dept. of Education did not jump to the conclusion that marijuana was to blame -- law enforcement officials like Sheriff Weaver and members of the CDIA did. That means Moreover, expulsions and suspensions have decreased overall in many places. For example, in Denver, expulsions dropped by more than 190%, and suspensions dropped by 27%.

How do kids say "No to drugs" when adults don't? If parents use it, kids will too.

Parents should tell their kids the facts about marijuana -- that it poses risks for adolescents, but it is something adults can do responsibly without significant problems associated with it. This has been working quite well with regard to alcohol and tobacco, the use of which has been declining among teens, whereas marijuana use has been increasing nationwide despite the current system. Moreover, nobody says parents have to use marijuana. If they are concerned about the message they will be sending to their kids, they should refrain from using it, just as they would do with alcohol or tobacco.

IT'S BAD FOR OUR COMMUNITY

Today's marijuana is more addictive than ever -- it's 10-20 times more potent than during the 60's, according to nationwide tests of the drug.

Research has consistently shown that marijuana is far less addictive than alcohol based on a number of indicators. According to the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, dependence among marijuana users is relatively rare and far less severe than dependence on other drugs. Research commissioned by the National Institute on Drug Abuse arrived at the same conclusion.

Colorado will be known as "Pot Capital, USA." In Denver alone, there are already more dispensaries than Starbucks, liquor stores or public schools, according to a 2010 Denver Post investigation. If legal, the number of dispensaries, growing and manufacturing facilities is expected to explode.

There is no evidence that their will be an "explosion" of marijuana-related facilities. For one thing, localities can prohibit them or place restrictions on how many there can be, just as is the case with medical marijuana. The "Starbucks" scare story fails to account for the fact that they only counted stand-alone Starbucks stores and not the hundreds that are located within other public places, such as grocery stores, airports, etc. This makes it seem like there are far more "marijuana stores" than there actually are. Plus, who do you hear complaining about the thousands upon thousands of alcohol retailers in Colorado? Not our government officials, many of whom tout Colorado's proud microbrewing industry.

A study estimates the state would generate $14 million a year and save law enforcement $12 million a year in the beginning, with up to $40 million a year in later years. However, opponents say that money will cover only 15% of the collateral costs to our community such as: increased drug treatment, emergency room visits, crime, traffic accidents and school 'drop-outs' to name just a few.

Opponents might say that -- again, they cite the CDIA's website, which cites a narcotics officer, who cites no specific research or agency. Actual research, however -- reported in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal -- concluded that health-related costs for alcohol consumers are eight times greater than those for marijuana consumers, and those for tobacco consumers are are 40 times greater than those for marijuana consumers. They also noted that the vast amount of costs currently associated with marijuana are related to enforcement of marijuana laws, whereas the vast amount of costs associated with alcohol and tobacco are related to problems actually stemming from use.

Economic losses. A work force that regularly uses marijuana is tardy, calls in sick, has more on-the-job accidents and is less productive than non-using workers. Businesses would be less likely to stay or move into a state where drug use related risks are high, according to a report by Healthy and Drug Free Colorado.

Again, citing narcotics officers who provide no actual evidence. There's been no report of businesses being less likely to come to Colorado since it began regulating medical marijuana and allowing for legal retail stores and production facilities. In fact, ending prohibition of marijuana could very well be attractive to many younger entrepreneurs and employees of new businesses, such as those in the tech and new energy industries.

Deaths from impaired driving would increase. About 50 people are killed in traffic accidents every year by drivers in Colorado under the influence of marijuana. Experts predict the number of deaths would double.

Again, no evidence to back this up (except for the CDIA website, of course). In fact, traffic fatalities have dropped in Colorado and other states following their adoption of medical marijuana laws. It's also important to note that driving while impaired by marijuana will remain just as illegal if A-64 passes as it is right now.

Supporters say marijuana would be regulated just like alcohol. But the federal government concludes the societal costs of treating alcohol and tobacco use far exceeds the revenue from taxing those drugs. The health cost from smoking cigarettes is about $7 per pack, while the revenue from taxing cigarettes is about $2 per pack, according to Ken Buck, District Attorney of Weld County.

It is illogical to flatly assert that the costs associated with marijuana use will be similar to the costs associated with alcohol or tobacco use just because they are all drugs. This is like suggesting that the potential harm and costs associated with driving 90 miles per hour are the same as those associated with driving 30 miles per hour because they are both driving. The costs of marijuana use and alcohol use are not the same. As I mentioned previously, one Canadian study found that the health care costs associated with alcohol use are eight times greater than the costs associated with marijuana use, and the costs of tobacco use are 40 times greater. If our opponents should explain how we are saving money by prohibiting adults from making the choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol.

80% of cities and towns across Colorado have already kicked out dispensaries because of crime, negative perception and lower property values. If Amendment 64 passes, suppliers could grow in residential areas as a Constitutional right.

Colorado is a home-rule state and localities enjoy the ability to decide for themselves whether they want to allow marijuana-related businesses. If Amendment 64 passes, localities can prohibit them just as they have had the right to do so with medical marijuana. The argument that "uppliers could grow in residential areas" is quite ridiculous. They are referring to the section of Amendment 64 that says adults 21 and older can grow up to 6 plants in an enclosed, locked space in their homes. It is illegal for them to sell it. This is no different than home-brewing, a hobby enjoyed by many Coloradans. If our opponents are concerned about marijuana being grown in neighborhoods, they should support our effort to take eliminate large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution operations out of them and put them in properly zoned commercial/industrial areas, as our state and localities have done with medical marijuana in Colorado.

Recent studies find marijuana use may cause or worsen mental health problems. Two 2010 reviews say it may bring on the disorders or worsen symptoms of schizophrenia and psychosis, particularly in young people.

The evidence tying marijuana to schizophrenia and psychosis have been largely refuted, primarily because they have focused on association and not causation. Marijuana use has increased dramatically over the past century, yet rates of these psychotic disorders have remained constant. Again, Amendment 64 is for adult use, not child use. If our concern is the mental health of children, we need to make marijuana harder for them to access by taking it out of the underground market.

Despite what users claim, Children's Hospital Boston concludes marijuana is highly addictive. It affects vision, memory, motor coordination and judgment.

Again, government and peer-reviewed academic research -- such as that of the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine -- have consistently shown that marijuana is relatively non-addictive and far less addictive than alcohol based on a number of indicators. It is also well documented that marijuana does not contribute to these symptoms in remotely as significant a manner as alcohol.

IT'S A CRIME

Federal law bans marijuana in Colorado regardless of Amendment 64. If it passes, Colorado's recreational pot users will believe they're protected by law, but they may be subject to federal prosecution. The federal government could arrest users, sellers and buyers, according to the Colorado Independent.

Colorado voters approved a ballot initiative to repeal alcohol prohibition prior to the federal government repealing alcohol prohibition. They can do the same thing when it comes to marijuana. As we've seen with Colorado's experience with medical marijuana, it is possible to regulate the production and sales of marijuana at the state and local levels. Moreover, federal officials have made it abundantly clear that they do not enforce federal marijuana laws unless they involve extremely large quantities of marijuana being produced or distributed. If Amendment 64 passes, and federal officials have noted, adults 21 and older would no longer face the risk of arrest and prosecution for possessing and growing small amounts of marijuana. The federal government (DEA, US Attorneys, federal judges) do not handle these types of cases, and with no state or local laws to fall back on, marijuana will be legal. We certainly hope the federal government will not try to prevent our state from regulating and controlling this product once it becomes legal. I highly doubt our opponents are concerned about those individuals who are interested in getting involved in the regulated marijuana industry; regardless, those individuals are more than aware of the situation with the federal government, as medical marijuana industry members are today.

Crimes connected to medical marijuana have increased since it became legal for patients. Police say there will only be more burglaries, robberies, illegal pot rings and homicides if voters approve the ballot measure.

The Denver and Colorado Springs police departments investigated this claim and disproved it.

Federal agents say international drug cartels are already in Colorado supplying, funding and running dispensaries. Agents expect cartels will expand their criminal operations if every adult is allowed to use marijuana in Colorado.

A fully regulated system of marijuana cultivation and sales will eventually lead to the elimination of the underground marijuana market in the state. Under a prohibition model, the production and distribution of marijuana is entirely uncontrolled. Authorities do not know who is growing it, where, or when, and they certainly do not know where it goes from there. Under the system proposed by Amendment 64, regulators and law enforcement officials would be directly involved in the process, ensuring it is produced and distributed in accordance with the law. The Colorado Dept. of Revenue is currently implementing a system of medical marijuana regulation that entails tracking all marijuana from 'seed to sale.' The same agency will oversee the regulation of non-medical marijuana if Amendment 64 is adopted, and it will in all likelihood extend that strict process to all marijuana production and sales.

Douglas County Comissioners Resolution Opposing Amendment 64

More from our Marijuana archive: "John Hickenlooper opposing marijuana Amendment 64, both sides react."


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