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Drug dealers and the law

Andy Stone

Did you read John Colson’s exhaustive history of Aspen drug busts in last Sunday’s Aspen Times Weekly? What a history of futility!For more than 30 years, cops have been making the Roaring Fork Valley safe for women, children and other decent folks by kicking down doors and hauling drug dealers off to jail. Don’t get me wrong. This is not going to be another one of my sleazy attacks on the decent cops who do their best. And it’s not going to be an ode to the glories of uninhibited drug abuse. Sorry. Maybe next time.I guess I do feel the need to point out that the past 30 years of drug busts haven’t really accomplished all that much. The quality of marijuana has gone sky high (no pun intended). The price of cocaine has plummeted (or so they tell me – I really wouldn’t know. I’ve always been too cheap to buy cocaine). All in all, if drug use has declined at all since the 1970s, it’s only because a lot of young loonies have grown older and duller (though not any wiser).Anyway, what caught my eye was an illustration dating back to a major bust in the mid-1980s. It was a chart that showed all the people who had been implicated for alleged drug connections when a guy named Steve Grabow was busted for cocaine dealing. There were a lot of names.And what caught my eye was this: Out of all those names, only one was Latino – and he was a longtime local.Forgive me if I repeat myself: 20 or so locals busted for cocaine dealing and just one Latino among them.The contrast is particularly clear when you look at that same story in the Times Weekly and see the mug shots of the men arrested in last month’s big whoopin’ and hollerin’, guns-drawn, Wild West raid in downtown Aspen. Those mug shots are a sad-looking collection of sad-looking men, and every single face is clearly Latino.And the divide between the Grabow bunch of 1985 and the arrestees of 2006 is not just racial or ethnic. It’s clearly financial. The men busted last month were restaurant workers, mostly dishwashers, I believe. The people busted in Grabow’s wake – at least the ones I know – were doing much better financially. They certainly weren’t washing dishes. When Grabow was busted, the cops seized $1.4 million. Last month, they got about $5,000.Why am I harping on this point about Latinos?Well, to begin with, a lot of people around here like to blame Aspen’s “drug problem” on the Latinos. We see letters to the editor and hear conversations in which people talk about “those Latinos” who are “bringing their crime and their drugs into the valley.”But 20 years ago, when Aspen’s cocaine culture was perhaps at an all-time wild, raging high (again, no pun intended), it seems as if Latinos weren’t even getting a whiff of the action. (And, again, sorry, no pun intended.)Cocaine, like Latino immigrants, may come to Aspen from Latin America – but Aspen’s cocaine habit is not a Latin American problem. Cocaine comes to Aspen for the same reason the Latinos come here.It’s the law.The law of supply and demand.And that’s not the kind of law that we need cops to enforce. It’s more like the law of gravity. No one kicks down your door in the middle of the night for breaking the Law of Gravity. You don’t break that one, you’ve got no choice.It’s the same with the law of supply and demand. We demand it. They supply it. (Whatever “it” may be.) That law cannot be broken.So the ski bums have moved on and we’ve got Latinos washing dishes.And the white-boy drug dealers have moved on and we’ve got, well, those same Latino dishwashers selling cocaine.And you can kick down doors from now until kingdom come, and the faces and races in those mug shots may change, but that’s about all.Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com


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