Chiefs and pot

Under the headline “Chiefs not high on pot legalization,” the Herald reported Friday on a Denver hearing at which some of the state’s chiefs of police expressed their displeasure with Colorado’s having legalized marijuana. Their arguments were based on legitimate concerns, including worries about law enforcement and public safety, and were reportedly delivered forcefully.

But to continue to rage against an idea almost two years after the voters decisively approved it smacks of petulance. It is also irrelevant, on several levels.

The hearing was before the Use of Recreational Marijuana Tax Revenue Interim Study Committee. In other words, the point is to look into how to spend the money generated by the tax on recreational pot – not to debate the wisdom of legalization.

Nonetheless, a panel of law-enforcement officials led by Chief John Jackson of the Greenwood Village Police Department and president of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police, took the opportunity to bemoan the legalization of marijuana. As the Herald reported, the “officials expressed a wide range of concerns, including keeping roads safe from stoned drivers, keeping marijuana out of the hands of youth, organized crime, diversion and unregulated home-grow operations.”

Those are valid concerns. And every one of them was publicly debated before the November 2012 election when Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 legalizing recreational pot.

For the record, the Herald editorially opposed Amendment 64. Under federal law, marijuana remains a Schedule 1 narcotic, the same as heroin or cocaine. Colorado has been able to proceed with legalization only because President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have chosen to look the other way. Their predecessors did much the same when Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 2000.

That could change overnight. And if, as seems to be happening, an entire industry grew around recreational marijuana, a sudden federal-enforcement effort could leave a real mess. That would be all the more devastating if, as also seems to be happening, the state got used to all that pot-tax revenue.

The voters did not share that concern. Amendment 64 passed with 55 percent of the vote statewide and 62 percent in La Plata County.

So be it, although Chief Jackson apparently has difficulty accepting that. He questioned why anyone supported Amendment 64, saying, “Sometimes, it makes us squirm when we see those news stories where it just doesn’t seem right.”

But most election results do not seem right to slightly less than half the voters. The trick to living in a republic is to accept that and move on.

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