Marijuana RTD ads for KushConII bad messages for kids, drivers, says Commander Jerry Peters

Last month, organizers of KushConII thanked RTD for accepting event-related bus ads. But RTD isn't receiving the same sort of compliments from the Colorado Drug Investigators Association. Says CDIA veep and North Metro Drug Task Force investigator Jerry Peters, "We don't feel it's right to advertise something that's federally illegal" on buses partly funded with public moneys.

Peters has been among the most prominent law-enforcement voices objecting to the increasing prevalence of marijuana, medical or otherwise, in Colorado. In February, he told us about two recent marijuana busts and 23 active investigations; in April, he argued that drug dealers were taking advantage of the medical marijuana industry; and in August, he said marijuana seizures were up 380 percent amid a growing black market.

It's no surprise, then, that he and fellow CDIA members would be distressed enough by the KushConII bus ads to send a letter of complaint to RTD board members. The missive was initially obtained by the Denver Post; see it below.

According to Peters, "our biggest concern as drug enforcement officers is that we are normalizing an illegal substance. We know drug use and abuse is increasing in our schools -- or at least drug-related incidents. We also know kids are generally influenced by advertisements -- and it's still illegal to grow and smoke marijuana in Colorado. The affirmative defense allows the medical use of marijuana under certain standards, but by promoting a drug-related event on transportation such as RTD, which receives public funding and goes through different communities that may have voted out medical marijuana dispensaries, seems like a poor use of policy-making to us.

"We feel it sends the wrong message to the community -- that this is something acceptable. And we don't feel it is."

In addition to referencing marijuana incidents in schools, the CDIA letter also points to traffic accidents involving drivers allegedly under the influence of drugs -- like, for instance, the October crash that killed John Page Hines; Joshua Wittig was arrested in the matter, which Peters says is currently in the hands of folks at the Adams County District Attorney's Office.

"Traffic safety is a huge concern for us," Peters says, "and when we start advertising drug-related events on public transportation, it becomes a huge problem for us in our community."

Peters raised these subjects with RTD spokesman Scott Reed, and he feels the discussions that followed were positive. But in the Post article linked above, Reed says the KushConII ads will continue to appear, albeit with small tweaks to make it clearer that they're paid advertisements -- and this approach doesn't truly address the CDIA's objections, Peters admits.

"I think Scott understood our issues," he says. "And as he pointed out, there's nothing illegal in what they did. But for us, the question comes down to this: Public funds support the buses, and I think overwhelmingly we showed in the last election that most communities don't want dispensaries. I know advertisements bring in money, and money makes the buses run. But I think it's bad policy to encourage drug use in our community. We'd rather see them run anti-drug messages about keeping kids off drugs, and keeping people on drugs off the road.

Other law-enforcement organizations may soon send RTD letters about the bus banners, too, Peters adds.

Page down to read the CDIA's letter, as well as to see a KushConII press release praising RTD for accepting the advertisements and a video featuring the banners.

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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

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