A handful of former law enforcement officials said Thursday that they hope Colorado votes this November to legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol.
The signatories to an open letter in support of Colorado's Amendment 64 ballot initiative included former police officers, former judges and even a former Colorado assistant attorney general. Activists said Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association were also supporting the measure.
"As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping marijuana illegal damages public safety – for marijuana consumers and non-consumers alike," the open letter explains. "We’ve also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market."
In a separate statement, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America said that the nation's current policy of drug prohibition "accomplishes nothing to reduce marijuana use, but it does cause incredible damage to our communities of color. Even though African Americans use marijuana at a rate virtually identical to that of whites, people from our community are arrested, sentenced and jailed at a much higher rate. Passing Amendment 64, while it won't solve all our problems, is a great step toward ensuring equality for all under the law."
“Right now, communities of color see the police as aggressors rather than as protectors," a statement by the National Latino Officers Association added. "People are unwilling to come to us, to give us information, even to report crimes, because they see us as the enemy. When Amendment 64 passes, we’ll be one step closer to rebuilding that community trust that allows us to effectively perform our jobs."
The letter of support comes at a crucial time for Colorado drug reform activists, who appear to have the wind at their backs in the battle for public opinion. The campaign was endorsed in August by more than 100 college professors from across the country. A recent survey also found that 51 percent of Colorado voters favor legalizing marijuana, versus just 40 percent who want to continue under prohibitionist policies.
Colorado is just one of three states considering full legalization of marijuana this fall. Even if state voters approve legalization, however, marijuana will still remain illegal under federal law.
The full open letter to Colorado voters by former members of the law enforcement community follows, below.
To the Voters of Colorado:
As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit marijuana use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping marijuana illegal damages public safety – for marijuana consumers and non-consumers alike. We’ve also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market.
If Colorado’s voters make the sensible decision to effectively regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over in November 2012, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer, wine and liquor sales.
As law enforcement professionals, we especially want voters to understand that responsible regulation will allow us to do our jobs more effectively and safely. When we change our marijuana laws, police officers will no longer have to waste time on low-level marijuana arrests. As public safety is our primary concern, we look forward to the passage of this initiative, which will allow our criminal justice system to focus on protecting the public from violent crime.
Because of all the overhead and administrative savings that marijuana regulation will generate, our criminal justice apparatus will have more resources to keep law enforcers employed serving the public in this time of fiscal turmoil. Ending prohibition will also put a stop to other crimes and problems caused by the illegal marijuana market, such as robberies, gang violence, gun-running and ecological damage caused by illegal grow farms.
Controlling marijuana through a regulated system will fundamentally assist in keeping the substance away from juveniles. Illegal dealers have no incentive to check IDs or avoid selling to juveniles, but under state regulation for adult use, licensed marijuana entities will face penalties and consequences that will effectively deter underage sales. Indeed, a recent study from Columbia University shows that teens currently find it easier to purchase illegal marijuana than age-regulated alcohol.
Simply put, law enforcers understand that every drug has the potential for abuse. However, our experience has shown us that prohibition not only makes marijuana more dangerous than it otherwise would be, but creates new harms that simply would not exist under a legal and regulated framework.
Please join us in supporting the sensible solution to Colorado’s failed marijuana policies. Let’s vote to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol in November 2012 – for safety’s sake.
Timothy D. Allport
Former Correctional Officer and Drug Treatment Specialist, Federal Bureau of Prisons, State of Colorado
Former Police Officer, Polk County (FL) Sheriff’s Department and Eagle Lake (FL) Police Department
Pagosa Springs, Colorado
Former Senior Deputy District Attorney, Denver District Attorney's Office
Former Municipal Judge, City of Lafayette
Former Police Officer, City of Lakewood and Summit County Sheriff's Office; former Director of Public Safety, Summit County; former County Coroner, Summit County; Colorado State Representative (2004-2007)
Former Senior Patrol Deputy and Field Training Officer, Travis County (TX) Sheriff’s Office
Sean T. McAllister
Former Assistant Attorney General, Office of the Colorado Attorney General
Former Deputy District Attorney, Colorado's Fifth Judicial District
Former Police Lieutenant, Denver Police Department
Former Deputy District Attorney in Colorado’s Seventh, Ninth and Eighteenth Judicial Districts
Former Deputy Town Marshal, Town of Holly (CO); former Detention Officer, Prowers County Jail (CO)
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