Pot Driving Citations Did So Go Up in 2015 — Way Up, Sheriff's Office Says

As we recently reported, Colorado Department of Transportation figures show that in 2015, marijuana driving citations actually went down from the previous year, albeit by a small amount — 1.3 percent.

In apparent response to these numbers, the Larimer County Sheriff's Office has released pot-citation data from that particular area — and it couldn't be more different.

The LCSO maintains that marijuana-related driving-under-the-influence-of-drugs arrests didn't just rise, but shot upward by a substantial 48 percent.

Of course, any suggestion that marijuana legalization is something other than a nightmare scenario for Colorado flies in the face of the narrative established by the LCSO's boss, Sheriff Justin Smith.

Last year, as we've reported, Smith was among a group of sheriffs who filed a lawsuit aimed at killing Amendment 64, the 2012 measure that legalized limited recreational cannabis sales in Colorado.

We've included the document below, but here's a paragraph from its introduction:
Amendment 64 pursues only one goal – legalization of marijuana — a goal which is diametrically opposed to the many objectives which Congress has established, and repeatedly reestablished, for the United States’ anti-drug policy and practice for marijuana as a controlled substance. If allowed to continue in effect, Amendment 64’s legalization and commercialization scheme will conflict with and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of anti-drug enforcement priorities and objectives. It will permit and enable at least hundreds — if not many thousands — of marijuana cultivation, distribution, sales, and consumption operations. It will permit and enable vast quantities of marijuana with a commercial value of billions of dollars to be placed into commerce. It will directly conflict with express federal policy which prohibits entirely the possession and use for any purpose of certain controlled substances, including marijuana products. Finally, it will interfere with vital foreign policy interests by disrupting the United States’ relationship with other countries which have entered into treaties and protocols with the United States to control trafficking in marijuana and other controlled substances.
The LCSO's dislike of marijuana even extends to hemp, its non-psychoactive relative. Last year, the sheriff's office clamped down on the Second Annual NoCo Hemp Expo, with event organizer Morris Beegle telling us, "The Sheriff's position is that it's still Schedule I and illegal on the federal level, and he can't tell the difference between a hemp plant and a marijuana plant or a hemp seed and a marijuana seed."

With this info as a backdrop, here are the sheriff's office arrest figures.

In 2014, the LCSO notes, the office made 665 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol and driving under the influence of drugs. And while the overall arrest number fell to 625 in 2015, the number of marijuana busts that were part of the total went up 48 percent.

The sheriff's office made 130 arrests for driving under the influence of drugs in 2014, an LCSO release maintains, with 70 percent of them involving marijuana. In 2015, there were 177 driving under the influence of drugs busts, with 76 percent of them defined as marijuana-related.

Here's an LCSO graphic showing the results.

That's not all. The LCSO complains that "DUID investigations/arrests are more time consuming than DUI cases," presumably because establishing whether a driver is over the state's THC intoxication level requires a blood test rather than a roadside breathalyzer.

That means "deputies are patrolling less while completing these investigations," the sheriff's office maintains, adding that "this may account for the overall drop in DUI/DUID arrests."

In other words, more drunk drivers might be caught if authorities weren't wasting their time dealing with stoners partaking in that demon weed and then sliding behind the wheel.

What about the theory that marijuana arrests in Larimer County may have gone up because Smith is a zealot on the topic, and since his minions know it, they focus an excessive amount of time on catching stoned drivers as opposed to liquored-up ones? That couldn't possibly be true....

Here's the sheriffs' 2015 lawsuit against Amendment 64.

Sheriff Justin Smith Marijuana Lawsuit

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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