Is Colorado's experiment with marijuana legalization a success story or an abject failure? Depends on who you ask.
Studies from organizations such as the Brookings Institution have praised the state's roll-out of cannabis-related rules and regulations.
But law-enforcement groups such as the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area continue to portray the situation in sky-is-falling terms.
During a recent trip to Colorado to assess whether or not Indio should allow medical marijuana cultivation, representatives from the City of Indio, California, appear to have listened mainly to folks that fall into this last category — which may explain why the Indio city council recently voted to draft an ordinance banning MMJ.
Participants in the visit, which took place over the summer, included Indio Police Chief Richard Twiss and city councilman Michael Wilson.
In a report entitled "Colorado Marijuana Industry Research," shared below along with an attachment filled with supplementary information, they focus almost entirely on the negatives associated with cannabis, with a bias toward police horror stories, even though they also had access to those offering other points of view.
Here's an excerpt from the report, which offers a rundown of events.
Committee members were involved in a series of meetings and tours between August 14 and 14, 2015, involving chiefs of polcie, city attorneys, representatives from the Colorado Municipal League, Understanding Legal Marijuana LLC, the Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division, corporate executives and retail managers from LivWell Enlightened Health. The topics of discussion and agenda consisted of, Overview of Marijuana Issues, Issues around Impaired Driving, City Policy and Municipal Ordinances, Local Control Issues, a Marijuana Optional Premise Cultivation (OPC) and Marijuana Infused Products (MIP) Tour, and meeting with the Denver Police Department followed by a foot patrol of the 16th Street Mall, Civic Center Park and Commons Park, a tour of the LivWell on Broadway Marijuana Retail Outlet Store, a drive along the "Green Mile," and concluding with a meeting at the Urban Peak Homeless Shelter.
The Commons Park tour included a visit to "what is referred to as 'Stoner Hill'" — the subject of our current feature article. The passage in the report refers to it as "an area of disorder stemming from quality of life impacts created by the homeless population. It also posed a serious officer safety threat as there was no safe direction to approach the hill without being spotted by those atop the hill, when conducting enforcement details."
The attempt to link homelessness and marijuana use is a frequent theme of the report, even though our Chris Walker, in a post debunking six myths about homelessness, lists the idea that "Legalizing pot has caused more people to be homeless" at number one.
That's certainly not the impression given by another excerpt from the report: about Commons Park and Stoner Hill
Adjacent to the park are public restrooms and during our tour there were approximately 30-35 homeless persons congregating in that area. DPD has identified this population as "Travelers." The age of this group ranges from 18-25 years and is made up of people who travel to Denver to participate in the 4/20 event and consume marijuana. This population stays from roughly April 20 through the summer months and leaves when the weather changes and becomes cold during the fall and winter months.
The document notes that DPD personnel recommended that Twiss and Wilson "review several local press articles regarding the impacts of homelessness, crime and disorder at both the Denver Civic Center Park and Commons Park." Such articles dominate the attachment, including multiple items about a 2013 shooting at the 4/20 celebration, not to mention reports about the impact of homeless youths on the 16th Street Mall and more.
Also featured: a hefty segment from the latest Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area study. And the main report includes letters from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and a PoliceFoundation.org report that decry cannabis legalization.
Given all that, it's no surprise the committee recommended that Indio ban medical marijuana during an early November meeting. A couple of weeks later, the full city council authorized drafting an prohibition ordinance that should be ready for a vote in January.
Such action might not protect Indio from the scourge of demon weed for long, however. The Desert Sun notes that current California law allows communities such as Indio to vote against allowing medical marijuana cultivation or the presence of dispensaries. But California voters will likely have a chance to approve recreational marijuana as soon as 2016.
Look below to see a Desert Sun video explaining the marijuana situation in the Coachella Valley, followed by the marijuana report and accompanying information.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.