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When Policies Go to Pot: Colorado Should Take Back Control of Intra-state Drug War Priorities

IP-10-2005 (December 2005)
Author: Mike Krause

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Like other American states, Colorado has long been dependent on federal assistance in carrying out illicit drug control policies. And as with most federal assistance to the states, federal tax dollars are accompanied by federal influence on local practices and priorities.

For instance, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),
through its state and local assistance programs, “…supports activities to advise, assist, and train state and local law enforcement and local community groups to ensure a consistent national approach to drug law enforcement.”1 Of course, a “consistent national approach” can also be defined as “dictates from Washington D.C.”

Yet with regard to marijuana and methamphetamine, which besides being trafficked into Colorado are also respectively grown and manufactured within the state, the priorities of the federal drug war bureaucracy and Colorado’s state and local jurisdictions are at odds.

If President Bush gets his 2006 national drug control budget, Colorado will lose millions of dollars in federal funding for local drug enforcement. The loss of federal drug war dollars would not be a crisis but rather a unique opportunity for Colorado to proactively break ranks with the federal government with regard to marijuana, thus freeing up both money and manpower to address the intra-state methamphetamine issue as Colorado sees fit.