Grower Joe Rey tends plants in the flower room at 3-D Denver Discreet Dispensary in 2013. (Denver Post file)

600 law enforcement officers in Denver to learn more about marijuana

The conference at the University of Denver offers classes on evidence, seizures, toxicology and other aspects of law enforcement and marijuana

George Brauchler, 18th Judicial District Attorney, told gathered media on Wednesday that marijuana legalization has caused a host of problems — from increased cartel activity to a rising number of schoolkids using the drug.

But a lack of hard data makes it impossible to prove that legalizing weed has increased crime, made the roads less safe or increased use among youth.

“Everything is a feeling or an anecdote,” Brauchler said. “Anecdotes are like smoke: They tell you that something is there” but are not proof.

Brauchler and other law enforcment officials spoke to the media at the University of Denver as a conference and training program for peace officers was underway.

Available statistics show that legalizing marijuana has not caused more crime or increased the number of children using it, said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project.

Brauchler said there is no doubt that Mexican drug cartels are taking advantage of weaknesses in Colorado’s laws.

But a 2015 study by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration found that that there was a reduction in border smuggling in 2014.

“Cops will go out of their way to hold a press conference and say they think there is a problem. We have yet to see any of the doomsday scenarios predicted by opponents come true” since legalization, said Tvert.

More than 600 peace officers, a third of them from outside Colorado, are in Denver to learn about challenges that legalization of marijuana has caused law enforcement.

“Colorado Two Years Later — Law Enforcement Marijuana Conference,” a three-day event began on Wednesday at the University of Denver. Retail sales of recreational marijuana began in Colorado on Jan. 1, 2014.

The conference, from which the media was barred, offers classes on evidence, seizures, toxicology, felony DUIs and other topics.

“Legalization has made things complex for law enforcement,” said Andrew Freedman, director of marijuana coordination for Gov. John Hickenlooper.

He said some things about the law may have to be changed, and to assure that the changes are positive, “we are going to need more information from law enforcement to determine how to do this.”

Tom McGhee: 303-954-1671, tmcghee@denverpost.com or @dpmcghee

This story was first published on DenverPost.com