Colorado Sheriff warns Texas on marijuana legalization
EL PASO COUNTY, Colorado - According to one Colorado sheriff, Texas needs to learn from the mistakes made in Colorado before the legislature decides whether to expand what is on the books.
I traveled to Colorado for this week's On The Frontlines with the DEA to see what some call a grand pot experiment.
It was an eye opening trip to Colorado to dig deeper into the pitfalls and the benefits of expanding the law in Texas for medical marijuana to all patients.
But according to the Sheriff in Colorado Springs, medical marijuana gets the foot in the door to legalize cannabis for all
Its known as Olympic City, USA.
Just 70 miles south of Denver is Colorado Springs in El Paso county.
But this is also the epicenter of the fight against illegal marijuana grow houses.
"It is dangerous," El Paso Sheriff Bill Elder said. "We have seen an uptick in criminal activity. Violent criminal activity."
Sheriff Bill Elder has taken a strong stance against marijuana crimes and executes the highest number of warrants against weed crimes in the state of Colorado.
Elder blames this on the state of Colorado for passing laws without thinking of the effects they may have down the road when they first voted in 2000 to legalize medical marijuana.
"This is not your dad's marijuana, this is not ditch weed this is highly potent technically grown marijuana," Elder said.
In spite of state laws in place in Colorado that legalized weed, under federal law it is still illegal.
"The threat we see, is, I would say, I believe, marijuana is a gateway drug," Dante Sorianello with the DEA said.
The sheriff warns the Texas Legislature to do its homework and study what Colorado did wrong before Texas takes a vote this year to possibly expand the compassionate use act that allows people with uncontrollable epileptic seizures to get a prescription for cannabis from their doctor.
"Find a way to gain a control on THC counts produced," Elder said. "If not, they will continue to grow high quality high density THC that will affect the economy."
And penalties with real teeth for people caught illegally growing marijuana.
"Make the penalties for someone growing marijuana, make it significant if not there is no deterrence for growing black and gray market," Elder told us.
Sheriff Elder warns that under the initial Colorado law that legalized medical marijuana every person could grow up to 99 plants or give their right to grow to a "Caregiver" and that quickly got out of control...
"That person could pick up an additional 5 people an be a caregiver and grow not only his 99, but 5 additional people's additional plants," Elder explained.
This would cause problems in residential zones such as high levels of THC reaching their water table.
One of the proposed Texas bills is sponsored by San Antonio senator Jose Menendez.
He tells me that his bill would allow doctors to prescribe to any patient they think would benefit from marijuana.
But that it would not allow people to grow in their homes.
Proposed Texas Laws
For Medical Marijuana (5)
SB 90 (Sen. Jose Menendez) — Relating to authorizing the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions and the licensing of dispensing organizations and testing facilities; authorizing fees.
HB 209 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) — Relating to authorizing the possession, use, cultivation, distribution, transportation, and delivery of medical cannabis for medical use by qualifying patients with certain debilitating medical conditions and the licensing of dispensing organizations and testing facilities; authorizing fees.
SJR 7 (Sen. Jose Rodriguez) — Proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for medical use.
HJR 21 (Rep. Ron Reynolds) — Proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis for medical use.
HB 122 (Rep. Gina Hinojosa) — Relating to the medical use of marihuana; providing an affirmative defense to prosecution for possession of marihuana.
For Regulating Cannabis (1)
SJR 8 (Sen. Jose Rodriguez) — Proposing a constitutional amendment to authorize and regulate the possession, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.