As troubled as I am by Fourth Judicial District Attorney Dan May's efforts to intimidate and hassle a Colorado Springs business owner (whose business just happens to be legally dispensing medical marijuana), because May doesn't want the shop located in a commercially-zoned area near his neighborhood, I'm also disturbed by the May's efforts to spread misinformation about Amendment 20 and whip up unnecessary public anxiety about the situation.
Typical was his statement in the story linked above, in which he suggests that the mere presence of a MMJ dispensary will lure innocent school children into the web of drug abuse.
"May said he "absolutely" supports medical marijuana. Dispensaries, however, are a different story.
"I have seen crimes because of dispensaries," he said. "I'm seeing them being put up next to schools, which gives the potential to openly recruit kids out of our high schools."
It's amazing how many people in Colorado Springs, like May, claim they support the medicinal use of marijuana, at least in theory, yet seem determined to eradicate it in practice, by making life impossible for those who grow, distribute or use it in city limits. We're not against it, they say -- we just don't want it going on anywhere in the city. It's a new form of knee-jerk naysaying called Canna-NIMBYism.
It's also remarkable that some residents, like May, seem to believe that school kids will go to the trouble of getting marijuana at locked-down dispensaries, which they can't even enter without a red card, when pot and much harder drugs are far easier for them to acquire from schoolmates or Facebook friends. I'm not aware of one case in which a dispensary has been caught selling MMJ to minors. But I'm sure the DA knows of many, many cases of black market drug transactions that go down on or near school property. Given the much higher prevalence of illegal drug activity taking place in Colorado Springs schools, neighborhoods have much more to fear from schools than from dispensaries. Maybe, instead of creating setback rules to "protect" schools and neighborhoods from MMJ dispensaries, we should create zones of separation that protect neighborhoods from schools.
As a step-parent, I'm not oblivious to the temptations and dangers drugs pose to young people. I wrestle with many of the same issues other parents do. But I think the anxiety in this case is misdirected -- and that May's position on the dispensary issue is irrational, reactionary and will prove unconstitutional if tested in court.
If school kids are the DA's concern, he should concentrate his efforts on cleaning up Colorado Springs schools, not hassling legal dispensary owners, operating responsibly and discreetly in commercial zones. If he wants to help get a better handle on the medical marijuana situation in Colorado Springs, fearmongering and vigilantism aren't the way to go. I would suggest, instead, that Mr. May get involved in shaping the draft ordinance produced by the Medical Marijuana Task Force, which is currently bogged down in city bureaucracy -- a process I invited him to be a part of back in December, when we began working toward a solution. Many of the issues that tend to raise public concerns are dealt with in the ordinance. His input, even at this late date, would be welcome.
No one denies that dispensaries can become a target for criminals. But are they a bigger target than the average bank, convenience store or Subway sandwich shop? Not that I'm aware of. The police chief, when questioned at a City Council meeting last week, could not produce evidence of a MMJ-related crime spree in Colorado Springs (I asked him to begin tracking such stats back in December, when this issue first was raised during a council briefing). The appropriate response to a crime threat isn't banning potential targets -- which would mean imposing a moratorium on banks and Subway sandwich shops in Colorado Springs -- but bolstering protection for those businesses and going after the criminals who target them. That would be a much more appropriate use of the DA's time and energy.