Two national law enforcement organizations representing black and Latino police officers announced their support yesterday for the ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Colorado.
The endorsements by Blacks in Law Enforcement of America and the National Latino Officers Association of Amendment 64, which proposes to regulate marijuana like alcohol, were accompanied by a letter signed by law enforcement officials from around Colorado:
As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit marijuana use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. […]
As law enforcement professionals, we especially want voters to understand that responsible regulation will allow us to do our jobs more effectively and safely. When we change our marijuana laws, police officers will no longer have to waste time on low-level marijuana arrests. As public safety is our primary concern, we look forward to the passage of this initiative, which will allow our criminal justice system to focus on protecting the public from violent crime. […]
Controlling marijuana through a regulated system will fundamentally assist in keeping the substance away from juveniles. Illegal dealers have no incentive to check IDs or avoid selling to juveniles, but under state regulation for adult use, licensed marijuana entities will face penalties and consequences that will effectively deter underage sales. Indeed, a recent study from Columbia University shows that teens currently find it easier to purchase illegal marijuana than age-regulated alcohol.
Other groups that have already endorsed the initiative include the Colorado/Montana/Wyoming NAACP Conference, the Colorado Democratic Party and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar. Initiatives to legalize marijuana are also on the November ballot in Washington and Oregon.
In a recent poll by the Denver Post, more than half of likely voters said they support the measure. But opposition to the bill is mounting, now that a group funded primarily by strip-mall magnate Melvin Sembler, who was the fundraising chair for Mitt Romney in 2008, has launched a campaign to drive down support for the measure. Sembler and his wife Betty once oversaw a chain of drug abuse treatment centers for teens, at which allegations have emerged of beatings, rape and psychological abuse.