Over the past three months, our Safety and Quality of Life Committee has attended several meetings with various individuals regarding the issues Downtown Denver is facing today. If anything has come through clearly, it is the severity of the drug addiction problem, and the increasingly negative effects that drugs are having on society. Commander Sanchez, who at the time of our meeting was Commander for Denver Police Department (DPD) District 6 (he has been recently promoted) told us that drugs are driving increases in both property and violent crimes.
Additionally, research has clearly shown that the prevalence of drug addiction and the mental illness that so often results from drug addiction are prevalent in the segment of the homeless community that chooses to continue living illegally on the streets.
I see open drug use almost every day when walking around downtown. I’ve seen it in Skyline Park, I’ve seen it on the steps of the Performing Arts Center, I’ve seen it in the doorway near Shag – I’ve seen it in more places that I can enumerate here. You have to look for it, but if you do, you see it. The corner of 16th & Champa near the restroom has become a haven for open drug use, and I’ve called 911 several times about it. The DPD recognizes 16th & Champa and Skyline Park as problem areas for open drug use and increased crime.
As a society, it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to combat drug abuse.
In 2019, HB19-1263 was passed by the Colorado State Legislature. That bill downgraded the possession of less than four grams of Schedule I and II drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor. The affected drugs include LSD, heroin, opium, cocaine and most notably fentanyl. While it is difficult for me personally to understand the rationale behind the original passage of this bill, two facts are clear.
- Fentanyl is such a powerful drug, that 2-3 milligrams is sufficient to kill a person. That means that four grams of fentanyl is enough to kill between 1,300 and 2,000 people!
- DPD officers have consistently told us that this law has given drug dealers cover, providing the opportunity to avoid arrest and prosecution by carrying less than four grams on their person. When they run low, they simply replenish their stock from a larger stash that is kept in a more secure location. In this manner, they are more likely to get a simple citation rather than prison time.
Many Colorado lawmakers, along with Mayor Hancock, have indicated that the 2019 law “got some things wrong” and new legislation has been introduced to address several aspects of the drug problem. This bill, HB22-1326, takes several positive steps, but in its current form it does nothing to correct the deficiencies of HB19-1263 regarding possession – especially fentanyl.ief Paul Pazen, Denver’s top law enforcement officer, has expressed disappointment over the current form of the bill. “What I can say is that I’m very disappointed,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said. “Disappointed that possession hasn’t been addressed and when we are talking about fentanyl, we’re talking about something completely different here. This is unlike any other drug that we have ever had to work through in our community.” https://kdvr.com/news/local/colorado-fentanyl-bill-police-sheriffs/
I believe this bill needs to be significantly strengthened. If you agree, I urge you to write an email insisting that the law be amended to re-felonize the possession of hard drugs, especially fentanyl. I am providing two email lists, one for the “To” and another for the “CC” fields in your email. All you have to do is copy them and paste them into your email.
Please help reduce this terrible drug epidemic that is plaguing Colorado and make our downtown a safer place to live.
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