Don’t let the DEA make up your mind | AspenTimes.com

Don’t let the DEA make up your mind

John Colson

The idea of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency telling Colorado voters how to handle state drug law enforcement, to me, seems to be a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. Not only should we be outraged that this is taking place, we should show our outrage by voting exactly the opposite way that the DEA wants us to.So there.For those who missed it this week, a Denver DEA agent, interestingly named Michael Moore (is that a nom de guerre, some kind of demented cop joke, or what?) e-mailed some political hacks on the Front Range, asking for their help in defeating a statewide voter initiative aimed at making it legal for adults to possess pot.Sponsored by Safer Alternatives For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the measure would amend state statutes to make the possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana legal in Colorado for those aged 21 years or older. Last year, voters in Denver passed a similar municipal initiative by 54 percent, and sponsors turned in more than 130,000 signatures from Colorado voters to qualify the statewide measure for the November ballot.If this initiative passes, any home-rule city or town in Colorado (representing about 90 percent of the state’s population, according to the initiative’s sponsors) will have the ability to fine or otherwise penalize marijuana users – if that is what they want to do. It will still be illegal to grow and/or sell marijuana throughout the state. It will also remain illegal to use or display marijuana in public, and nothing will change with respect to driving under the influence of marijuana.What will change: In cities – such as Denver – where elected officials or voters choose to allow residents to make the rational decision to use marijuana, state law will no longer “force” police and prosecutors to punish marijuana users. That’s right, the Denver police say that even though the city voters have said it’s legal to possess a small amount of pot, state law requires them to ignore voters’ will.This initiative is an attempt to close that loophole, and remove from our overworked police agencies the burden of having to arrest us for a lifestyle choice.For now, however, the issue is this abuse of the DEA’s role and authority in trying to influence a state election.For one thing, although state and federal law apparently permits federal employees to take public positions on nonpartisan ballot issues, that technicality does not justify this particular action. Federal resources should not be brought to bear on state electoral contests, especially in regard to hot-button items such as this one, in which state and federal interests already are sometimes at odds.According to news reports about this travesty, the $10,000 war chest comes from “private donations,” including money “from agents’ own accounts.”Hah! What I get from that admission, if true, is that we’re paying DEA agents way too much for their services.But I wouldn’t be surprised if the war chest reported by the Boulder Daily Camera is actually taken directly from money seized in a drug bust. That kind of cynical tactic would amuse the hell out of the DEA, I’m sure, especially if the dealer had been selling pot. Never let it be said that the DEA doesn’t have a wicked sense of humor and irony.I see this as just another indication of the corruption permeating the entire drug-enforcement culture. It seems to me that agents are far too ego-invested, and in some cases financially invested, in their work to allow such laws to be passed by voters without challenge.We’ve heard far too many tales of drug agents who end up using or selling the drugs they confiscate. And that should be seen as a perversion of the entire drug interdiction effort – drug agents engaging in the same behavior they arrest and incarcerate others for.And now they’ve come out of the closet with this disclosure. They’re so desperate to keep their jobs and their corruption that they will subvert the democratic process to do so.I say it stinks more than a ton of pot being burned in a DEA incinerator, and must not be allowed to stand.John Colson can be reached at jcolson@aspentimes.com