Medical-marijuana advocates fight Mexican drug cartel reports with the Always Buy Colorado Cannabis pledge

Opponents of medical-marijuana laws like Colorado Attorney General John Suthers are increasingly playing the crime card -- implying that the proliferation of dispensaries in Colorado is fueling illegal and increasingly dangerous behavior (without, of course, providing specific examples of the phenomenon). Today's Denver Post adds a chorus to this tune via an article suggesting that demand for ganja has grown so fast that suppliers are having to turn to Mexican drug cartels to restock.

That's nonsense, says Laura Kriho, PR coordinator for the pot-advocacy organization Cannabis Therapy Institute. Last night, Kriho attended a Louisville city council meeting at which a moratorium on new dispensaries in town was put in place until May 15; she says the original idea was to freeze things for six months, but since the new date would have been (ahem) 4-20, officials decided to bump up the date another few weeks. Before and after the session, she chatted with numerous medical-marijuana providers and patients who say they haven't seen Mexican marijuana at dispensaries, or anywhere else, in ages.

Still, in an attempt to undermine what Kriho sees as scare tactics, CTI is encouraging caregivers to take a new pledge -- to Always Buy Colorado cannabis.

According to Kriho, Mexican cannabis is a snap to identify. "They compress it into large bricks," she says. "You can tell the difference immediately." Moreover, she argues that alleged shortages are fictional. "I just talked to a dispensary owner in Nederland, and he said there's actually a surplus at this point. It's harvest season, and everybody's harvested their outdoor crop. He said he's had people coming in to try to sell him locally grown cannabis."

Given this evidence, Kriho believes "the attorney general and the DEA are working off the fear factor, trying to make the public afraid of problems that don't even exist at this point. These stories are just being put out to make people afraid, and they really smack of reefer madness from the '20s and '30s. Back then, they took the second or third most widely prescribed medicine at the turn of the century, cannabis, plastered a new name on it -- marijuana -- and made it seem like a drug Mexicans were using before raping white women. And again, they're blaming it on Mexicans. I think it's racist for them to do that now just like it was back then."

The Post piece states that most dispensaries have been getting their product from large outdoor grows like one near Chatfield Reservoir at which 14,000 plants were eradicated. Kriho isn't buying these assertions, either. "I've seen pictures of some of the plants found in Pike National Forest [check out a slideshow of images by clicking here] and you can tell just by looking at it that it's wild-grown ditch weed with no medicinal value whatsoever." She's just as doubtful about assertions of other medical-marijuana-related crime: "I called the attorney general's office about that and asked for any statistics they had, and they said they didn't have any. They said it was 'anecdotal evidence,' which I guess makes good headlines -- but the public is going to see through that pretty quick."

To assist in this process, CTI has come up with the Always Buy Colorado Cannabis campaign -- a twist on Always Buy Colorado, which encourages consumers to purchase products from local businesses. The pledge reads:

As a responsible caregiver, I pledge to never knowingly purchase medical cannabis from Mexican drug cartels or any other enterprise that is not legally allowed to supply medicinal cannabis in Colorado. I pledge to Always Buy Colorado Cannabis whenever possible. I pledge to never represent cannabis as Colorado-grown if it is not grown in the state.

One more thing: In Kriho's opinion, the best way to undermine Mexican drug cartels is to legalize marijuana for recreational as well as medical use.

You knew that was coming, didn't you?

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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