Cops dead set against dope |

Cops dead set against dope

J.K. Perry

EAGLE COUNTY ” Valley law enforcement officials are firmly against a ballot amendment that would legalize small amounts of marijuana.

Amendment 44 legalizes possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. Possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is currently a statewide petty offense punishable by a $100 fine. Only in Denver is possession up to an ounce legal because voters there passed Initiative 100 in the last election.

Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation, or SAFER, supports the amendment because marijuana would be a legal alternative to drinking alcohol, said Mason Tvert, campaign director for SAFER.

Whereas several people die each year from alcohol overdose, no such deaths have occurred because of marijuana, Tvert said.

But some law enforcement officials disagree with the alcohol-marijuana argument.

“The only safe alternative is not drinking,” Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy said.

The main argument made by law enforcement officials against the amendment rests with children. Passage of the amendment sends the wrong message to kids after years of telling them cigarettes, drinking and marijuana are dangerous, Hoy said.

“Why now are we going to turn around and say marijuana is not (dangerous),” Hoy said.

Tvert balks at the notion Amendment 44 means an increase in marijuana use by minors when 86 percent of high school seniors said marijuana is “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get, according to a University of Michigan study.

“Young people are looking to rage against the machine and when there’s no law there’s no reason to defy it,” Tvert said. “When they’re the ones we’re trying to keep marijuana from and they can get it the most easily, it’s failed policy.”

Beyond minors, Avon police chief Brian Kozak said if the amendment passes, the number of smokers will increase and thus marijuana-related traffic accidents will increase.

“My biggest fear is that it will create a more hazardous situation on our streets,” Kozak said.

Kozak said a Tilburg University study found marijuana use tripled among 18- to 21-year-olds when the Netherlands legalized marijuana use. Amendment 44 does not give minors license to possess or smoke marijuana.

The driving issue also concerns Gypsum resident Luis Leal. He said he won’t vote for the amendment because he doesn’t want people driving while high on marijuana.

“It’s not ever going to pass,” Leal said. “Who wants to have people driving on that stuff?”

Voters David Gutowski said he was opposed to the amendment because it might open the flood gate for drugs to be used or legalized. Gutowski said he doesn’t see the harm in smoking marijuana, but he worries what might happen if the amendment passes.

“If you condone that, where do you draw the line,” Gutowski said. “Down the road an eight ball will be OK.”

If Australian Barry Robinson could vote, he said he’d vote for Amendment 44.

“I don’t use drugs and never have, but if someone else wants to I couldn’t care less,” Robinson said. “My feeling is as long as they keep it out the workplace and in their own personal space (it’s OK).”

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or

Vail, Colorado

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