The Drug Enforcement Administration's top man in Colorado says the state's lax drug laws have led to an increase in organized crime:
"I think they believe it's a good market and I think the case could be made that it is a good market," said Jeffrey Sweetin, the DEA special agent in charge of Colorado.
Sweetin said it's in part because of Denver's law making marijuana legal in small amounts and a state-wide initiative to legalize medical marijuana.
It's not clear how a law that Denver police have been ignoring, and that it any case applies only to possession of small quantities for personal use, would attract drug traffickers to Colorado. The medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 2000, likewise does not allow distribution, only cultivation and possession of limited amounts by registered patients. Maybe Sweetin is suggesting that Colorado has been flooded by pot dealers because patients authorized by the state to grow and use medical marijuana nevertheless are relying on the black market. That would increase overall demand because without the law those patients would have had to…rely on the black market. Later in the article he suggests that Colorado is not the final destination for all the drugs allegedly entering the state:
"People here think they're so far from the border, they're insulated from it," he said. "They're not insulated from it."
Colorado has long been an ideal location for drug dealers.
"We're really the hub of the western interstate system." Sweetin said. "If you couple that also with we're an airline hub, a major airline hub, we're a bus hub, we're a train hub; it's really the perfect location to trans-ship from."
And the medical marijuana law, coupled with a local decriminalization measure that had no practical effect, somehow has made Colorado's location…more perfect, I guess. Is it too much to expect reporters to challenge drug warriors when they spout nonsense like this? It's not even a matter of questioning current policy—just following up with a question or two that would elucidate what they're claiming. Something sharp and to the point, like "Huh?"
Update: Going beyond "huh?," Colorado Confidential asked the DEA for evidence to support Sweetin's assertion that organized crime/drug trafficking is on the rise in Colorado:
No hard data were cited in the Channel 4 story regarding the reported increase in organized crime, and there was a good reason, according to a drug agency spokesman.
"I don't think there's any numbers I can give," said DEA media representative Mike Turner about the crime connection to legalization efforts. "It's just that the ongoing cases we're seeing I think reflect the fact that that's what's going on."
[Thanks to Mason Tvert for the tip.]