Photo attribution: Colorado Attorney General webpage https://coag.gov/about-us/colorado-attorney-general/
Attorney General Philip Weiser met with LoDoNA’s Safe, Clean and Compassionate Committee on 3/31/2022 to discuss various concerns of the residents of downtown Denver. Increased crime and open drug use were two issues discussed. Rob Squire, Lisa Pope, and David Howard of UpDoNA’s Safety & Quality of Life Committee attended the meeting.
AG Weiser agrees with Mayor Hancock who recently said that the increase in downtown Denver homeless population is a drug problem, not a housing problem. Fentanyl is a challenge that every state is dealing with – Denver is no different.
Drug dealers have discovered that, unlike Heroin, synthetic opioids like Fentanyl are cheaper to produce and easier to bring across the U.S./Mexican border. Fentanyl is replacing prescription pain medicines and other drugs like heroin in popularity, but unfortunately it is highly addictive and very deadly. According to the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, from 2020 to 2021, there was a 40% increase in deaths involving Fentanyl and Fentanyl was present in half of all accidental overdoses. A prime example is the death of five young people who recently died in a Commerce City apartment. It is suspected that what they thought was cocaine, was actually Fentanyl.
To get control of the problem, AG Weiser said that two things need to happen: 1) people must get into treatment whether it’s voluntary or involuntary, and 2) there needs to be increased education and awareness of the dangers of Fentanyl.
AG Weiser mentioned that Larimer County kept its laws enforced during the pandemic – no roll backs – and its crime rate did not increase. The Larimer County Police Department continued to arrest drug dealers and users throughout the pandemic. Larimer County also has a program similar to Denver’s Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) program. However, all health care providers work together to provide treatment and counseling for drug addicts and then track the progress of people in treatment to ensure their success. He stated that Larimer County should be the model for the entire State of Colorado.
When asked about the defelonization of certain drugs including four grams or less of Fentanyl which is now considered a misdemeanor, AG Weiser stated that at the time, no one knew how deadly Fentanyl would become. Four grams of Fentanyl can kill 2,000 people. He stated that to qualify as a misdemeanor the legal amount should be reduced to .001 grams.
Denver will be receiving $400 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Some additional monies should be received from the Purdue Pharma litigation. AG Weiser’s goal is to spend that money on increased behavioral health and water and broadband infrastructures. He’d also like to see some monies spent on the expansion of drug addiction treatment. Currently, Colorado is only able to treat 16% of drug addicts. He’d like to see that number at 100%.
When asked what residents can do to help, AG Weiser stated that we need to contact our state legislators and city council members – “good things happen when citizens get involved.” This reinforces what the board has continually been saying – Report, Report, Report. Report any illegal act that you see, even if you’ve reported it in the past. If you don’t know how, go to UpDoNA’s Report an Issue webpage at https://updona.org/report-an-issue/