District Attorney Joyce Dudley warned county supervisors this week that marijuana-related car accident deaths in Colorado have increased by 49 percent since the drug was fully legalized. Dudley said she has been talking for years with former Denver DA Mitchell Morrissey, who was sharply critical of Proposition 64, which legalized pot in California. Morrissey also reported marijuana-related emergency room visits increased by 49 percent and calls about cannabis to the poison center jumped 100 percent.
“That was Colorado’s experience, and we want to get ahead of that,” Dudley said. Since the passage of Prop. 64 last November, some backlash toward marijuana has grown. But as county department heads prepare to cut their budgets this year, optimists are hoping new tax revenues from cannabis growers will provide relief. Some estimate that figure could be in the tens of millions.
Not so fast, says County Supervisor Janet Wolf. While her four colleagues have embraced regulating marijuana cultivation, Wolf has been the sole opponent. As for the boon to the county coffers, she warned, “We’ll get it in, and it’ll go out in other ways.”
Dudley explained she does not foresee needing to ask for more money for marijuana cases. But she is preparing for more DUI cases, she said, and to educate people about edibles. As for her budget plan, Dudley proposed to cut four investigative positions, but then she asked for them all to be restored, plus another $600,000 in backfill for the MS-13 gang case and $400,000 for a new case-management system.
Personnel in the Sheriff’s Office, meanwhile, have been complaining for some time about patrol staffing shortages, which translates to greater overtime costs and fewer detectives in the gang and narcotics units. Undersheriff Bernard Melekian asked the county supervisors for $1 million for overtime costs as well as an additional 10 deputies and five dispatchers. The Sheriff’s Office hired 39 new personnel in 2015, 82 last year, and 54 so far this year, he added.