Civil Liberties

Supporters Hope Amendment 64, Colorado's Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, Might Increase Safety, Increase Community Trust in Police


Today two national police groups, Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association endorsed Colorado's November ballot initiative, Amendment 64, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol; joining them are numerous other cops, clergy, judges, politicians, and other seemingly straight-laced folks including the NAACP. (Oddly enough, the Colorado Education Association recently came out in opposition to legalization.)

Amendment 64 is one of three full-legalization pushes for the 2012 election. Oregon and Washington state will also offer initiatives. Colorado's, however, might have the biggest reasons for optimism. Recently The Denver Post reported that support for Amendment 64 has passed 50 percent and is gaining.

Today Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) hosted a conference call with LEAP Executive Director Lt. Neil Franklin, a 34-year veteran of the Baltimore Police department andTony Ryan, a 36-year veteran of the Denver Police Department, now on LEAP's board, along with Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol advocacy director Betty Aldworth. 

Aldworth mentioned that marijuana prohibition leads to the arrest of "about 10 thousand Coloradoans each year, nearly 95 percent for simple possession," and Amendment 64 is looking to turn that around. It would also bring Colorado an estimated $60 million in revenue and savings, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. Ryan talked about his 36 years on the Denver force, mostly on street patrol. "Where marijuana is concerned, the only calls I remember getting for marijuana was because someone was mad at someone and wanted to turn them in for using it," he said. ""Far as I can see, people who use marijuana don't cause any problems."

Franklin read statements said earlier today from representatives of Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association.  Blacks in Law Enforcement of America's Ron Hampton, said:

"Keeping these outdated prohibition laws on the books accomplishes nothing to reduce marijuana use, but it does cause incredible damage to our communities of color.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."

The statement from the National Latino Officers Association included a hope for increased cooperation between law enforcement and communities, which Franklin echoed later. NLOA's Anthony Miranda said: 

"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."

When Reason asked about how Amendment 64 might increase officer and citizen safety, Franklin dropped many topics familiar to regular readers. He also reiterated that the drug war has seriously decreased trust in law enforcement and perhaps for good reason, saying:

"Police are not well respected, and when police are not well respected, you have many opportunities for conflicts between citizens and police. Citizens do not trust police, they do not give them information. In Baltimore they had things like stop snitching campaigns. when we don't have citizens working with police to get violent criminals off the steet…"

He also mentioned cartels and the violent criminals involved in drug trades. Franklin went on to say that another area where safety will be improved by legalization:

"These dynamic SWAT raids we use on a regular basis, they are very, very dangerous…." "People are getting hurt, innocent people are getting hurt. We are conducting raids on the wrong homes. Even in homes where there might be some illicit activity, marijuana, there is no violence…yet the raid itself is an act of violence."

When asked what backers of Amendment 64 anticipated the Federal response might be if they were successful in November, Aldworth said:

"We anticipate that when Colorado passes amendment 64, the federal government will work with us. The DEA has never made it its business to prosecute or investigate individuals for simple possession of marijuana. We don't expect that DEA priorities will be shifted."

When pressed as to whether the DEA and/or Department of Justice might go after growers or retailers of marijuana, Aldworth mentioned the 10th amendment, and with some hesitation said "I hope that the federal government finds themselves in a position where they want to work with us on that."

Reason TV's Nick Gillespie interviewed Franklin back in July 2011