Denver DA says legalized pot has been tough on his city in Carson City forum |

Denver DA says legalized pot has been tough on his city in Carson City forum

Anne Knowles

The district attorney for Denver, Colo., painted a grim picture of recreational marijuana legalization for an audience of about 100 people gathered Tuesday to hear the pros and cons concerning Nevada’s ballot Question 2.

Mitchell Morrissey, Denver’s DA, said crime and marijuana use has spiked while the black market for pot has thrived ever since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.

Homicides hit a 10-year high in 2015, for example, and homicides related to marijuana have doubled, said Morrissey.

“It would be naive to say legalization of marijuana caused the (increased) crime rate, a lot of things went into it,” Morrissey told the audience at the Sierra Nevada Forums event in the Brewery Arts Center Performance Hall. “The crime increase paralleled the legalization of marijuana.”

But he offered a number of anecdotes of crimes tied to marijuana, including burglaries that led to murder and hash oil operations that resulted in 44 explosions.

And legalization, Morrissey said, hasn’t reduced the illegal market for pot.

“The black market is alive and well,” he said.

Morrissey said Pueblo, Colo., for example, has been inundated with Cuban drug dealers.

“I wish we had waited. It’s tough being first. There’s no rush to this,” he said. “You have these test centers, like Colorado, like my city, to see. What’s the rush?”

Morrissey said Nevada was smart to limit the number of proposed dispensaries, which have proliferated under Colorado’s more lax regulations.

And Nevada has a long history in banking money made illegally under federal law, citing gambling and prostitution.

“I believe a lot of the violent crime would be reduced if they would allow it to be banked because (criminals) are after the money,” he said. “Banking would help our crime rate and other states regulating it would help our crime rate.”

William Adler, executive director, Nevada Medical Marijuana Association, said Nevada should solve the banking issue.

“I think you’ll see a system here within a year,” Adler said.

Adler presented a pro argument for Question 2 while Pam Graber, volunteer advocate, Nevadans for Responsible Drug Policy, provided the case to vote against it. Both spoke briefly before the Denver DA took the stage.

Adler talked about Nevada’s proposed regulations which are stricter than those in neighboring California and other states, and the tax revenue recreational marijuana could generate for schools here.

He estimates in the fist year sales would be at least $500 million, with $20 million going directly to schools, while creating 6,200 jobs.

“Let’s say projected revenue does come in. It’s not enough to build one middle school,” said Graber.

Graber said marijuana today is much stronger than the pot some adults in the room might have known in their youth, with much higher concentrations of THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

She also faulted the process.

“Unlike a lot of things on the ballot, the legislators, the people we elect, never got a chance to go over this, to read through it, hold committee hearings,” said Graber. “It has not been vetted at all, but somehow it made it on the ballot, all 12 pages of it.”

The ballot questions, including Question 2, as well as arguments for and against each are available on the Nevada Secretary of State’s web site at