Marijuana: Law enforcers' letter to Hick freaks out over pot bills
We've been following the rapidly evolving marijuana bills intended to enact voter-approved Amendment 64, which allows adults 21 and over in Colorado to use and possess small amounts of cannabis. So, too, have assorted law enforcement groups -- and judging by a letter that several organizations sent to Governor John Hickenlooper and numerous legislators, they're absolutely alarmed by some of the developments, as well as relative inaction on a measure intended to define "drug-endangered children." See the letter and more below.
The letter was released by the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, currently presided over by Broomfield Police Chief Tom Deland. But it's also been blessed by several other outfits, including the Colorado District Attorneys Council, the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Colorado Drug Investigators Association.
The last group's Facebook page makes its enmity for Amendment 64 clear, from this graphic....
...to a March 27 post that reads, "There are serious deficiencies in the Colorado Medical Marijuana regulatory system. The Colorado State government simply cannot keep up with these changes that have been forced upon its citizens. Another clear indication why legalization is wrong for Colorado." The tone of the letter is similar. Here's a passage that depicts the majority of Coloradans who marked their ballots in favor of A64 as either hopelessly naive or victims of flim-flammery by the unscrupulous backers of the measure:
Many citizens supported Amendment 64 without understanding that the resources to implement the oversight of the marijuana industry were not provided for in the Amendment, and did not realize that another vote would be required to provide for the education resources promised in the amendment. Without adequate resources Amendment 64 is a legal free for all, and Colorado's law enforcement community stands ready to help secure the resources necessary to provide an adequate regulatory framework.
Broomfield's Tom Deland is the president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
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The letter also outlines "several public safety issues which we believe are in jeopardy," with the first being "a standard for driving under the influence of marijuana" -- aka House Bill 13-1114, which would have set a THC intoxication limit of five nanograms per milliliter of blood had it not failed in the state Senate for the third consecutive year.
The combination of questions about whether this number is supported by science and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling against warrantless blood draws appears to have persuaded the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject the proposal by a 4-1 vote after it had passed the House. But supporters of so-called DUI-D are attempting to bring the measure back to life as an amendment to House Bill 13-1317, the main marijuana regulatory offering -- and the law enforcement groups believe its passage is a must even though Colorado already has statutes that forbid driving under the influence of drugs.
"Establishing this standard will decrease the number of impaired driving incidents and serve as a strong public policy statement against driving under the influence of marijuana," they write, adding, "To implement Amendment 64 without an impaired driving standard is irresponsible."
They feel likewise about a training program intended to "help law enforcement better identity drivers who are impaired from those who are not," which was recommended by the Amendment 64 task force but currently is listed as an option rather than a fully funded mandate because of revenue concerns. The same situation faces a bill to "study the actual effects on local law enforcement for implementation of Amendment 64," much to the groups' chagrin.
Also on the groups' radar is Senate Bill 278, a little-discussed measure sponsored by Littleton senator Linda Newell that seeks to establish a definition for a drug-endangered child -- meaning a victim of neglect or child abuse. The first definition in the measure, on view below, is as follows:
"DRUG-ENDANGERED CHILD" MEANS A CHILD...WHOSE HEALTH OR WELFARE IS ENDANGERED OR THREATENED AS A RESULT OF THE USE, POSSESSION, DISTRIBUTION, OR MANUFACTURE, OR THE ATTEMPTED USE, POSSESSION, DISTRIBUTION, OR MANUFACTURE, OF A CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE, AS THAT TERM IS DEFINED IN THE FEDERAL "CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT:...IN THE PRESENCE OF A CHILD, ON THE PREMISES WHERE A CHILD IS FOUND, OR WHERE A CHILD RESIDES. THE ACCESSIBILITY TO THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCE BY A CHILD MAY ESTABLISH ENDANGERMENT AND ENDANGERMENT MAY ALSO BE ESTABLISHED BY OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN A CHILD'S HEALTH OR WELFARE IS THREATENED BY THE DRUG ACTIVITY.
The word "marijuana" isn't used in the bill, but it would obviously apply, since the measure uses the federal list of controlled substances, on which it's categorized as a Schedule I narcotic. Hence the bill would establish child abuse or neglect if a parent or guardian possessed any amount, no matter how small, of a substance that's legal in Colorado.
The letter, sent to Governor John Hickenlooper, Senate President John Morse, Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and House Minority Leader Mark Waller, with copies to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers and U.S. Attorney John Walsh, already has one high-profile backer: Smart Colorado, an advocacy organization that A64 proponents charge with advocating for a stealth repeal of the measure if voters don't approve a tax level to its satisfaction. Here's a statement about the missive from volunteer spokesperson Diane Robinson:
"We applaud the state's law enforcement associations for taking a stand for public health and safety in its letter to Gov. Hickenlooper and our legislative leaders. Smart Colorado shares the same concern that Coloradans' interests are losing out to the desires of the marijuana industry and recreational marijuana users as our elected officials debate how to regulate Amendment 64.
"The letter states that 'money cannot drive' the decisions on how to regulate recreational marijuana. We couldn't have said it better ourselves. Smart Colorado believes that we can't put a price on the health and safety of our children and fellow Coloradans.
"We are eager to continue working with the law enforcement associations and our elected officials to minimize the negative and unintended consequences of Amendment 64."
Look below to see the letter, as well as SB 278.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Amendment 64 sales tax proposal at 10 percent, but Smart Colorado wants it higher."
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