Huffpost Denver

Tony Ryan, Former Denver Cop: 'Regulating Marijuana Will Allow Law Enforcement To Direct Resources Toward Serious Crime'

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A new ad released by the pro-pot advocates behind Colorado's Amendment 64 -- a November ballot measure that seeks an end to marijuana prohibition in the state -- features retired, highly decorated 36-year-veteran of the Denver Police Department Lt. Tony Ryan who says the regulation of marijuana will lead to "safer communities."

That's the theme of the second ad from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol camp: that marijuana does not lead to violent crime and that by allowing law enforcement to stop focusing on pot busts and instead freeing up their resources to be focused on serious crime, communities in Colorado will be safer.

"In my 36 years as a police officer in Denver, I can't recall a single incident where marijuana was a cause of violence," Ryan says in the spot. Citing data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reports, the ad states that although Ryan says marijuana use did not lead to violent crimes, there have been over 50,000 marijuana arrests in Colorado since 2007.

Ryan goes on to state that he believes regulating the sale of marijuana will allow law enforcement to set new priorities and "direct resources toward serious crime."

"To me the regulation of marijuana means safer communities," Ryan says as he closes out the ad.

This isn't the first time Ryan has endorsed Amendment 64. He, along with other members of the law enforcement community, announced support for the pot measure in September. Ryan said then:

Law enforcement officers know better than anyone that keeping marijuana illegal and unregulated means the gangs and cartels that control the illegal trade win, and the rest of us lose. Our current marijuana laws distract police officers from doing the job we signed up for - protecting the public by stopping and solving serious crimes. They also put us at risk by forcing us to deal with an underground marijuana market made up of gangsters, cartels, and other criminals.

If marijuana is legalized in Colorado it would be taxed and regulated similar to alcohol and tobacco. It would give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of marijuana to adults age 21 and older. According to the Associated Press, analysts project that that tax revenue could generate somewhere between $5 million and $22 million a year in the state. An economist whose study was funded by a pro-pot group projects as much as a $60 million boost by 2017.

However, the big unknown still is if the federal government would allow a regulated marijuana market to take shape. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was a vocal opponent of California's legalization initiative in 2010 saying he would "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana prohibition, was urged by nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to take a stand against marijuana legalization again in September.

Then, earlier this week, former Drug Enforcement Agency heads and directors of the Office of National Drug Control Policy organized a teleconference call to put additional pressure on Holder to condemn the marijuana legalization measures on the ballot not just in Colorado, but also Washington and Oregon. The former DEA heads and drug czars strongly voiced that the legalization of marijuana still violates federal law and the passage of these measures could trigger a "Constitutional showdown" between state and federal government.

So far, Holder has remained quiet on the issue with less than three weeks until Election Day.

On Nov. 6, Coloradans will decide if marijuana prohibition should end in the state. This is the second time that Colorado voters will decide on pot legislation -- in 2006, voters rejected a similar recreational pot legalization initiative.

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