Denver DA speaks out about Nevada's proposed marijuana law

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - In November, Nevada has the option to legalize recreational marijuana. Colorado passed similar legislation in 2013. Denver’s District Attorney, Mitch Morrissey, traveled to Reno and Carson City Tuesday to talk about Colorado’s experience.

"I think a lot of people believe that you'll see the crime rate go down if you legalize marijuana commercially, that has not been the case," Morrissey said. “We've seen an increase, for instance last year, in every single neighborhood in Denver, almost every single crime from homicide to car thefts."

Proponents of legalizing marijuana think it will eliminate the Black Market's involvement with this drug.

"We know it's lab tested, approved by state licenses, monitored by the state itself instead of leaving it up to the Black Market," Yes on Measure 2’s Political Director Will Adler said.

Morrissey said it is too difficult to actually regulate, and for that reason, it can be easier for dispensaries to sell marijuana on the side to the Black Market.

"We’ve seen the Black Market, which everyone was told would go away, the Black Market is alive and well in Colorado," Morrissey said.

In fact, since it is so easy to produce now Colorado, the Black Market and drug cartels are targeting their state.

"What we're finding is organized crime is involved in the production of marijuana in our state, to get it out of our state, to make the profits that they see when they sell it on the east coast,” Morrissey said.

Morrissey said marijuana is about five times more expensive on the east coast than it is in Colorado.

Many say the legalization of marijuana would free up police to handle more serious crimes.

"What I really want to see is our police, and our resources used for something better, fight violent crimes, and fight opioid addiction, instead of giving out petty traffic tickets and monitoring a marijuana system that should be regulated, should be sold like alcohol," Adler said.

However, Morrissey said police in Colorado are even more tied up since they passed this legislation.

"They're working on the crimes that are a direct result of legalization of marijuana," Morrissey said.

Proponents also argue that legalizing recreational marijuana would bring in a large tax revenue for the state, often times going toward education.

"Let's stop funding cartels, and start funding schools in Nevada," Adler said.

In Morrissey’s experience, most of their tax revenue goes to a general fund, and rarely benefits children.

"I have one of the largest school districts, Denver Public Schools, they've gotten zero money, zero money from the state for marijuana,” Morrissey said.

Of the state's entire budget, tax revenue from marijuana make up seven tenths of a percent. That is solely in revenue, and does not account for the cost of marijuana enforcement and regulation.

Marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 48 percent in the three-year average since Colorado legalized recreational marijuana. Morrissey said auto insurance rates have gone up in that time period across the board for Colorado drivers.

Morrissey hopes Nevadans will wait to pass this legislation, and continue to observe how similar laws are doing in other states.

"There are petri dishes out there, the state of Colorado, the city of Denver, the state of Washington, which is experience a lot of what we're experiencing," Morrissey said. "I would wait."

There is a full report about marijuana legalization and the impact it has had on other states: http://www.rmhidta.org.



 
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