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.
Year in Review: 2015
A green oasis: When Colorado cities ban pot sales, nearby small towns fill void (and their local coffers)
Unbalanced cannabis landscape: Denver’s pot businesses mostly in low-income, minority neighborhoods
A new calling: Accidental entrepreneurs find skills in high demand as marijuana matures
Normalization: The subtle mainstreaming of cannabis in Colorado is happening everywhere
On the road: A slow shift on working marijuana into alcohol-centered road safety
Kids and cannabis: Marijuana use in Colorado schools still unclear, prevention on the rise
Debate remains on impact of legalization: While experts are withholding judgment on whether legalization has been a success or failure, there are trends to follow
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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, email@example.com or @dpmcghee