Amendment 64 camp on law-enforcement support, teachers union opposition

At noon, proponents of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, will hold a press event at which two law-enforcement organizations will join previous backers in expressing their support for the measure; get details below. A spokeswoman stresses that the get-together isn't a response to yesterday's announcement that the Colorado Education Association will fight against the proposal -- an unexpected turn, she admits. Why?

According to Amendment 64's Betty Aldworth, the CEA, the state's largest teachers union, was consulted during the drafting of the initiative and suggested that tax revenue generated by the sales of marijuana go toward school construction -- an element that made it into the final draft. In her words, "We were glad to have their involvement during the process, and happy to be able to direct the funds to the place where they seemed to feel they were needed the most."

We've reached out to the CEA for comment and will share the organization's response in this space. In the meantime, Aldworth can only guess why the union decided to oppose the measure rather than staying neutral.

"What we have seen is powerful political professionals coming on board the 'no' campaign -- and it's a surprising flurry of activity from places we didn't expect it," she says. "We speculate that it has more to do with politics than it does with the issue itself. Looking at Amendment 64 from an evidence- and fact-based approach, it's clear this is good policy for Colorado, and we've simply been surprised by some of the individuals and organizations that have joined the 'no' campaign."

Regarding today's event, taking place outside the Denver City and County Building, it's slated to include representatives from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar, both of which have publicly backed Amendment 64 for some time. However, these organizations are being joined by two new recruits: Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association. Their voices in support of the act are significant, Aldworth believes.

"When people who've dedicated their lives to law enforcement come out to support Amendment 64, it underlines the fact that marijuana prohibition is a wasteful and counterproductive policy, and Amendment 64 is a more sensible approach," she says. "We can regulate marijuana like alcohol and better protect our communities, our families, our youth and our law enforcement officers."

Was this event on the books before the CEA announcement, even though a press release about it didn't arrive until afterward? "As does any campaign, we have been working with supporters for some time," Aldworth replies. "We have been working since the beginning to build a coalition. So this is not a response to that in any way."

Don't expect it to be the last happening of its kind, either. "Our coalition has been rapidly growing and continues to do so," she says. "So we will certainly have more events like this one prior to the election."

Here's the Amendment 64 release about today's event:

Cops, Prosecutors, and Judge to Endorse Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

National Black and Latino police organizations announce support for Amendment 64

Former law enforcement officials will join campaign to announce the endorsements at a news conference Thursday, Sep. 20, at 12 p.m. in front of the Denver City-County Building (1437 Bannock St.)

DENVER -- A group of former police officers, prosecutors, and a judge will join the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol at a news conference on Thursday, Sep. 20, at 12 p.m. to release a letter of endorsement signed by law enforcers from across the state. They will also announce endorsements from two national police organizations: Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association.

WHAT: News conference announcing law enforcement support for Amendment 64, the initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol

WHEN: Thursday, September 20, 12 p.m. MT

WHERE: In front of the Denver City-County Building, 1437 Bannock St., Denver

WHO: Lt. Tony Ryan (Ret.), 36-year veteran of the Denver Police Dept. Lauren Davis, former deputy district attorney in Denver and Manhattan Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Betty Aldworth, advocacy director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Several other former cops, prosecutors, and judges who support Amendment 64

In the sign-on letter being released at the news conference, law enforcers outline the following reasons for supporting Amendment 64:

• Redirect limited law enforcement resources toward preventing violent crimes.

• Cut off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels, which generate the majority of their revenue from illegal marijuana sales.

• Protect the lives of police officers who must enforce ineffective marijuana prohibition laws.

• Reduce access to marijuana by teens by taking marijuana out of the underground market, putting it behind the counter, and enforcing strict age-limits.

• Restore mutual respect and good relations between law enforcement and communities bearing the brunt of the current marijuana laws.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Colorado Education Association opposing Amendment 64."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts