Michael Cleverly
Special to the Aspen Times Weekly
Aspen, CO Colorado

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May 27, 2011
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Michael Cleverly: Aspen old-timers, drug enforcement and God

Back in the wild old days I had a friend who was in the import/export business. You know, commodities.

He had a sign on his living room wall. It was quite large and looked like he had made it himself. It said, "IT IS A CRIME." At the time I had no idea what it meant, as I was visiting just to play with his kittens. Some recent events have reminded me of that sign, and the fact that "it" is indeed a crime. My buddy was a very smart guy, smart enough to know he should never forget the "crime" fact, so he made the sign. It was also a helpful reminder to his customers - I mean, friends.

A couple of weeks ago, several retirement-age locals were busted for trafficking cocaine. They'd all been around forever and their hair was as white as the snow that, seemingly, will never melt off Aspen Mountain. If they'd been living somewhere in middle America, then they would have looked like the guys who spend their days whittling in front of the barbershop. In busting these aging bad boys, the Drug Enforcement Administration demonstrated more obvious pride in their accomplishment than Seal Team 6 has in its recent endeavors. The feds crowed that they had taken a group of extremely dangerous criminals off the streets, and that Pitkin County is now a safer place. Safer than what? I don't remember any time when Pitkin County was an unsafe place. Oh well, according to the narcs we are now safer than something.

Despite the feds posturing as if they'd just re-taken down Pablo Escobar, the alleged perpetrators were brought into custody without incident, mostly at their homes. For some reason, after decades in what I'm told is a high cash-flow line of work, most of these guys were still renting, and what they were renting weren't exactly mansions. The homes owned by a couple of the guys are pretty far down on the Aspen real estate food chain. None of these people have a shot at getting into "The Drug Lord Hall of Fame."

The bust was carried off without the help or support of the Aspen Police Department or the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. The feds said it was because some of the suspects had a "relationship" with members of local law enforcement. Aspen is a tiny town where everybody knows everybody, whether you like it or not, especially if you've been here for decades. People "knew" Ted Bundy; the same people may "know" some of these guys. Guess the narcs forgot to include them in the sweep. Just because you "know" someone doesn't mean you have a relationship with him.

When the last undercover drug bust was performed in Aspen, the bust itself caused a much greater risk to public safety than the people who were busted ever did. The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office, especially, didn't appreciate being surprised by a bunch of narcs and city police bursting into crowded bars, apres ski, to nail a couple of gram dealers. It left an extremely bad taste in the mouth of local law enforcement and did nothing to warm their relationship with the feds. I'm willing to bet that it is this history that had the feds unwilling to involve local law enforcement, more than any bullshit relationship issues. Whatever, the effect is the same. While the voters of Pitkin County have, for more than four decades now, consistently made it clear that they don't want undercover drug operations in their community, the feds have made it equally clear that they're going to cowboy up, ride in and protect us from ourselves whether we like it or not. Thanks.

My old friend's sign was definitely correct: it is a crime. The law is the law and if any of these people broke it, so be it. But please don't tell me that I'm being protected from dangerous criminals. The Geritol crowd, if guilty, was trying to get by, maybe the only way they know how. It started dealing a little in the discos back in the day, and the years just slipped by. This crime stuff is, or should be, a young man's game, men who have a little time to spare if things go south. Now a bunch of old-timers without any extra time may end up going away for the rest of it.

The DEA types act like they're on a mission from God, exactly the same as that preacher who thought the world was going to end on May 21. The holy man is bilking the gullible out of millions of dollars, but the feds are stealing lives. Of course drugs kill. So does alcohol, so does texting while driving and so do guns. If you want a firm opinion as to where the responsibility lies, with the individual or the thing, ask someone from the National Rifle Association. The world might be a better place without any of these things, but if they were all to disappear, then what would the hypocrites have to be hypocritical about?

Cocaine was legal until the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was implemented in 1915 and the stuff really was in Coca-Cola. There still are people in prison for pot crimes. I wonder where you could buy some pot today?

And we all know how much good prohibition did the country.

We're all still here, the world didn't end last weekend. God changes his mind, and it's clear that man does, too. What was legal yesterday is illegal today and today's crime is tomorrow's nothing. It's all a matter of timing. The day the drug enforcement zealots are put out of business will be the exact same day that the evil Mexican drug cartels go out of business.

It will be the day reason prevails over people who think they know the mind of God.


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The Aspen Times Updated May 27, 2011 01:17PM Published May 27, 2011 01:16PM Copyright 2011 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.