Last month, opponents of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act dismissed retired Denver Police Lieutenant Tony Ryan as a "pro-pot rent-a-cop." But being personally attacked clearly didn't intimidate Ryan. He's the face of a new Amendment 64 television ad, in which he says law enforcement resources are being wasted on chasing tokers. See it and get details below. As we've reported, Ryan, a 36-year-veteran of the DPD, took part in a September 21 event at the Denver City and County Building at which he was joined by fellow members of the national organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), among others. A statement from him released afterward offers a good sense of his sentiments. It read: "Law enforcement officers know better than anyone that keeping marijuana illegal and unregulated means the gangs and cartels that control the illegal trade win, and the rest of us lose. Our current marijuana laws distract police officers from doing the job we signed up for -- protecting the public by stopping and solving serious crimes. They also put us at risk by forcing us to deal with an underground marijuana market made up of gangsters, cartels and other criminals." Afterward, Roger Sherman, campaign director for Smart Colorado, the No on 64 organization, released comments of his own. They begin: "Today's endorsement by two out-of-state law enforcement organizations and a pro-pot rent-a-cop pales in comparison to the dozens of county sheriffs, chiefs of police, district attorneys and school resource officers that are publically opposed to Amendment 64."
Amendment 64's Mason Tvert fired back, characterizing Sherman's statement as a "smear" on a decorated cop. "During his service, Lt. Ryan was one of the first Denver Police Department Medal of Honor recipients, as well as a recipient of the DPD Purple Heart after being shot while on duty," Tvert wrote. "He also received a Merit Award for being an immediate responder to the Columbine High School shooting, the Footprinter's Award for his outstanding performance as a Denver police officer, and DPD's Community Service Award."
As for Ryan, he was more puzzled than offended by the rent-a-cop designation. "He's implying that I get paid for doing this, and I don't," he told us. "I get nothing for doing this. I just believe we need a change in policy, and since marijuana is the drug than seems to be the most enforced, changing how we deal with that would make a huge difference."
This message comes across in the ad, in which Ryan says that in his three-decades-plus on the Denver force, he can't remember a single incident when marijuana was the cause of violence.
Continue for more about Tony Ryan and to see the latest ad. The spot, which began running last night, strikes one of the most important themes in the Amendment 64 campaign, says spokesperson Betty Aldworth.
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"Any analysis of the evidence demonstrates that marijuana prohibition is a vast waste of law-enforcement resources," she says. "Tony speaks for the many police officers who have recognized that their time and efforts would be better spent working on serious crimes."
She adds, "Tony is a well-respected and decorated police officer, a 36-year veteran of the Denver Police force, and we're proud to have him speaking on behalf of Amendment 64 and sensible policy reform."
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Amendment 64 opponents dub Tony Ryan, decorated Denver officer, a rent-a-cop."