Law Enforcement Backs CO's Amendment 64, Says Legalizing Pot Would Benefit Police and Communities of Color

Today, a group of former police officers, judges, and prosecutors held a press conference in Denver, Colorado to declare and explain their support for Colorado’s marijuana legalization initiative, Amendment 64. Among the coalition of supporters are Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), the National Latino Officers Association, and Blacks in Law Enforcement of America. Overwhelmingly, they say their experience in law enforcement has led them to conclude that legalizing marijuana would free-up law enforcement resources to fight more serious or violent crimes, while reducing the negative impact prohibition has on communities of color.

Tony Ryan, a 36-year veteran Denver police lieutenant and LEAP, told reporters that the marijuana-related calls his department received were rarely threatening, and more likely the result of an axe to ground than serious concern. Marijuana use, he says, is not related to crime, and legalizing it would reduce the strain on officer resources.

“Beyond just being ineffective, these laws waste important law enforcement resources that could instead be going to things that actually protect public safety, like solving and preventing murders, rapes and robberies," said Ryan.

Ron Hampton, a former police officer and current executive director of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America, said legalization would benefit communities of color unjustly targeted by prohibition.

"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,” Hampton explained, “Passing Amendment 64, while it won't solve all our problems, is a great step toward ensuring equality for all under the law."

Anthony Miranda of the National Latino Officers Association said passing the Amendment would also improve community relations with police.  “Right now, communities of color see the police as aggressors rather than as protectors. 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," Miranda told reporters.

In a sign-on letter, law enforcement explained how legalizing marijuana would have positive consequences. They write that Amendment 64, which legalizes and regulates marijuana for adults over 21, would:

  • Put our police priorities where they belong, by ending the arrests of non-violent marijuana users and enabling police to focus instead on preventing violent crime
  • Cut off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels, who generate the majority of their revenue from illegal marijuana sales
  • Protect the lives of police officers now in the line of fire in the "drug war"
  • Reduce marijuana access to children by instituting strict age-limits and public safety controls
  • Restore mutual respect and good relations between law enforcement and communities bearing the brunt of the current marijuana laws

The Colorado Center on Law and Policy estimates that by taxing weed and saving law enforcement resources, Amendment 64 would generate $60 million in tax revenue and savings annually. The initiative states that the first $40 million raised each year will be spent improving education.

As former Denver cop Tony Ryan put it, "Coloradans have the opportunity to take millions of dollars away from the gangs and cartels that currently control the illegal marijuana trade and put that money into our tax coffers, where it will be used to improve schools, pay police officers and protect our environment."

Colorado voters will decide whether the Amendment becomes law at the polls this November.

AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at September 20, 2012, 12:19pm