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Marijuana: DEA Steps in Deep Doo-doo in Denver With Abortive Bid to Defeat November Legalization Initiative

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Consequences of Prohibition
Politics & Advocacy

Jeff Sweetin, the DEA special agent in charge in Denver, probably wishes he had just kept his mouth shut. It was bad enough that the University of Colorado newspaper the Daily Camera reported Sunday that one of his special agents had sent out an e-mail on a Department of Justice account seeking a campaign manager for “Colorado’s Marijuana Information Committee,” an apparent astroturf organization being set up to defeat the Colorado marijuana legalization initiative. That initiative would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults.

But then Sweetin really stepped in it, telling the Daily Camera that the law "allows his agency to get involved in the process to tell voters why they shouldn’t decriminalize pot" and that the committee had raised $10,000 from "private donations, including some from agents' own accounts."

That was enough to draw out the initiative's sponsor, SAFER Colorado, which criticized the agency for unwarranted interference in a state electoral matter. "Taxpayer money should not be going toward the executive branch advocating one side or another," the group's executive director, Steve Fox, told the Daily Camera. "It's a wholly inappropriate use of taxpayer money."

But SAFER Colorado wasn’t alone in taking offense at the untoward DEA actions. The state's two largest and most influential newspapers, the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post, both condemned the move in editorials. The News' position was clear from its headline: "DEA Should Keep Out of State Politics."

The Post took a more concerned approach, worrying that the DEA politicking might pass the bounds of propriety, if not legality. "Providing facts to people who want them is one thing," the Post wrote. "Using the agency as a platform to influence elections is another. Sweetin says he clearly understands the difference. We certainly hope that's the case."

If Sweetin hoped the story would just go away, he didn’t help matters any when he further clouded the waters when KMGH-TV in Denver Tuesday reported that: "Sweetin said, despite reports to the contrary, his office is not campaigning against it or fundraising. When asked about the committee and the $10,000 mentioned in the E-mail, Sweetin said, 'There is no $10,000 in money that I've ever heard of.'"

That led SAFER Colorado to raise a whole series of questions about which version of the DEA activism was true, which they kindly sent to Colorado media. "We think it's really fishy that the same DEA agent who made it clear the committee had funds from private donors and agents is now saying he's never heard of this money," said campaign coordinator Mason Tvert. "We think DEA thought they could actively campaign against us, but then got told by some sort of legal counsel it couldn’t happen that way. In any case, we're just trying to spin this into the biggest story we can," he told Drug War Chronicle.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

If you have ever had any dealings with the DEA would realize that these people lie about everything all the time especially in court while... under oath.

Thu, 09/07/2006 - 11:46am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I wonder how it feels to be at the wrong end of the bureaucratic stick (like I don't know). I hope Sweetin gets what he deserves for trying to act like a bad ass then just falling flat in the face of adversity. What a jerk.... I guess the drug reform movement may one day refer to Sweetin as a martyr for futsing up a move meant to further the drug war chaos. Way to drop the ball buddy.. and Thanks!

Thu, 09/07/2006 - 3:38pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I really wish they (polititians) would get off the pot or crap on this issue. Either drug-test every government employee (especially elected officials and their appointees) or do not drug-test ANYONE. Either legalize and tax drugs, or ban all taxes and asset forfieture laws tied to drugs!!! We cannot have it both ways anymore. The only just way to deal with drugs is to do so openly and honestly.

People do drugs, it's a fact and you can take it to the bank. The only real concern we should have is the responsibility for one's actions. If you get high, dosed, or drunk, do not try to drive. If you decide to try a drug, educate yourself first, know how long it lasts, what kind of effects you can reasonably expect, how it works, and what health risks may be associated with using it. As long as we treat drugs the way we do now, these facts are "unknowable" and as such lead to accidental overdoses, deaths due to drug-interactions, car accidents, under-age drug-use (as with perscription drugs, illegal drugs have differing effects on the participant, depending on their age, and stage of mental developement. As such, general guidelines would be necessary in the event of legalization of a drug) and drug-addiction.

Curiousity is among the highest noted motivators for drug experimentation. Whetting our children's curiousity with actual knowledge as opposed to fear-filled rhetoric is the first step in a more sane national drug-policy.

-The Mgt

Tue, 10/10/2006 - 9:41am Permalink

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