The Austin Chronicle

Reefer Madness: From the Department of You've Gotta Be Kidding Me

By Jordan Smith, April 21, 2008, 11:38am, Newsdesk

According to Colorado Drug Enforcement Agent Jeffrey Sweetin, state laws that have lessened penalties associated with marijuana possession for adults have increased organized crime activities in the state.

Really. No joke. He swears it's true: "We're sending a message to organized crime that, you know what, Colorado is a great place to be distributors of marijuana," Sweetin told Denver's CBS station. "People here think they're so far from the border, they're insulated from it" -- we assume he's talking about the Mexican border, and that "it" means Mexican pot. (Forget that Mex pot isn't exactly the most popular in the Rocky Mountains, where they hardly need to do much importing, if you get my drift.)

The Colorado Conundrum, it seems -- at least according to Sweetin and the DEA -- stems from two initiatives passed by Denver voters: In 2005, city voters approved a measure that legalizes adult possession of up to one ounce of pot; in 2007, voters passed an ordinance to make pot-law enforcement the lowest priority for city cops. A statewide ballot measure, similar to the 2005 Denver initiative, failed to pass in 2006. But it is the success of the Denver measures that appear to be sticking in Sweetin's craw: "I think they" -- that is, the organized crime types -- "believe it's a good market [for pot] and I think the case could be made that it is a good market."

Sound good? Not really. And, it turns out, there's a slight problem with Sweetin's proclamation: He's got no proof.

That's right, according to Colorado Confidential, the DEA has no data to back up Sweetin's claims. "I don't think there's any numbers I can give," DEA media flak Mike Turner told the online daily. "It's just that the ongoing cases we're seeing I think reflect the fact that that's what's going on."

Ultimately, legalization should make organized crime disappear (the booze mafia has really waned since the end of prohibition, don't you think?) -- but it is hard to imagine the DEA would really want that to happen, at least in part because it would eliminate their ability to make wild-ass claims without proof. Hey! Here's one: Denver's successful initiatives have caused a generation of pot-addicted babies to be born. Seriously. I mean it. And don't think they wouldn't give it a shot if they thought it would rile folks. Forget that its completely laughable. That doesn't seem to bother the DEA.

Nor, apparently, does the lightweight reporting at the CBS station appear to bother the broadcasters. According to Confidential, the station used footage from a Denver methamphetamine lab raid to illustrate their pot-crime story, without indicating in any way that the footage was relevant to another, unrelated story. CC says CBS reporter Karlyn Tilley didn't return their calls requesting comment.

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