Cannabis helps Denver cops mellow out on nonviolent offenders

Cannabis helps Denver cops mellow out on nonviolent offenders

Weed tax funds treatment, not jail, for addicts, prostitutes

VicesFebruary 22, 2019 By Reilly Capps

Mile High cops are taking it easy on some druggos, sex workers, petty thieves and other non-violent, low-level lawbreakers, the city announced. Instead of jail and a criminal record, a couple hundred will be offered treatment instead. And cannabis money is paying for it.

A $561,000 grant from the state's marijuana tax cash fund fuels the two-year trial of a kinder, gentler police force.

So weed really does calm people down.

Indirectly, anyway, in this case.

The program is called LEAD — Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion — and it's based on a program that supposedly worked in Seattle, Longmont, Pueblo and Alamosa.

Cops who are trained in the program can decide if the offender could benefit more from services — behavioral health, housing or trauma-based care — than from the back of a squad car. Crimes including drug possession — without intent to distribute — trespassing, breaking curfew or disturbing the peace are eligible.

photo - Denver 4/20 celebration

[420 Rally in Denver in2016. All of these lawbreakers would have been eligible for the new program. Photo by Kevin O'Donohue]

The hope is that, with a little therapy or a nice place to sleep, the offender can pull themselves together, get to AA, find a job, and stop, you know, pooping on the highway median or shooting up next to the daycare.

The city hopes the program will, in the end, save money, since treatment is cheaper than jail. And Denver hopes the LEAD program frees cops up to focus on the real criminals — the axe murderers and grandma kidnappers and those ticket scalpers who charged me $100 for a Jack Johnson ticket — rather than the Kit-Kat stealers and the back-alley handie-givers.

Pot taxes and fees have brought the city $180 million since marijuana was legalized in 2013. The city can blow some of that dough however they want. And they're spending some of it on this.

That half-million dollars in the budget for this program will only help 200 people, and only for two years. After those spots are filled up, it's back to the slammer for everybody.

At least until the cops get their hands on more marijuana … money.

[Cover photo: Denver Sheriff's officers, reserved, ride on horseback through the Botanical Gardens. Photo from Shutterstock.]