Cops should target cannabis criminals
The brave new world of legalized marijuana sold in officially sanctioned stores has arrived in Colorado, with the first legal sales occurring New Year’s Day on the Front Range and in a few resort communities on the Western Slope.
There is much understandable trepidation about what may occur as a result of legalization: Will there be a substantial increase in marijuana-related crime? Will pot become even more available for school-age kids? Will marijuana tourism prove to be more headache than help?
Those are legitimate concerns. But there are also opportunities for real benefits to come with legal marijuana sales, and we’re not just talking about the potential tax revenue from pot.
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits could be — and we stress the word could — in substantially reducing black-market sales of marijuana and all of the problems that accompany sales by drug dealers.
In 2012, proponents of the marijuana legalization ballot measure known as Amendment 64 touted the end of black-market sales as one of the benefits of passing the amendment.
The Daily Sentinel didn’t support Amendment 64, but we did think there was value in that argument. There still is, if law enforcement officials make a concerted effort — with the aid of law-abiding citizens, even if they are pot smokers — to get the drug dealers off the street.
Consider what actually occurred as of Wednesday: For the first time in the lives of many marijuana users, some of whom have been illegally purchasing pot for many decades, there is the opportunity to buy the drug without fear of being arrested or even jailed. Furthermore, legal marijuana dealers won’t have an opportunity to push other, harder drugs onto those customers.
Why wouldn’t most people choose the legal route?
One fear expressed is that taxes on legal marijuana sales, combined with other requirements enacted for retail pot outlets, will push the cost too high in the legal shops, and many pot users will revert to buying from drug dealers because it is less expensive.
But that’s a problem that capitalism eventually controls. After the initial rush of pot purchases at the legal retail stores, shop owners will quickly determine whether the products they offer are overpriced compared to what is available on the black market, and they will find ways to reduce prices if they want to remain in business.
Location may be another issue. For marijuana users in places such as Mesa County, making a trip to Telluride, Frisco, Breckenridge or the Front Range to refill the stash may be more trouble than seeking out the back-alley dealer.
But the solution is to make it much harder to acquire the pot locally by coming down hard on the back-alley dealers and those who frequent them.
Law enforcement officials and all Coloradans should seize this opportunity to curtail the illegal drug trade.