David Kupfer: Why would the sheriff mislead us? | TheUnion.com

David Kupfer: Why would the sheriff mislead us?

Sheriff Royal is either misinterpreting or manipulating numbers, especially statistics and data about the purported negative impacts of cannabis production in places like Colorado. He’s used these numbers to sow fear in the hearts of Nevada County residents, akin to the 1930s prohibitionists who concocted the infamous Reefer Madness campaign to illegalize the plant.

ON THE DRUG WAR: Much of the data Sheriff Royal is derived from the National Office of Drug Control Policy – an agency that with an annual budget of $26 billion has miserably failed to successfully achieve many of the goals it is tasked with, including such as including eradicating drugs. Despite 44 years of aggressive policing and incarceration at the cost of a trillion dollars, 21 million Americans are still addicted to alcohol or other drugs. That is a fact, actually derived from the agency itself.

It is ironic that Sheriff Royal uses data from an agency whose very leader, Michael Boticelli, director of the NODCP, is opposed to the exact same thing Royal is advocating: Prohibition. Boticelli recently stated in an interview that the drug epidemic in America is at its worst ever, because the war on drugs has not worked. The drugs won.

ON COLORADO’S REVENUES: In addition to his statements directly contradicting the country’s drug czar, Sheriff Royal has also used Colorado’s post-legalization data to paint a picture that is factually misleading. Recently on the Paul Emery’s KVMR show, Royal stated the legal medical and recreational cannabis industry in Colorado wasn’t the “cash calf” everyone thought it would be. He went on to say the state is barely breaking even between the revenue it collects from licenses and taxes paid by the cannabis industry and the expenditures to run the agency tasked with regulating it.

However, the latest report from the Colorado Department of Revenue states otherwise. Royal seems woefully math challenged, or he’s attempting to intentionally mislead his constituents. Either way, behavior not fit for an elected official.

According to the report released in April of 2016, Colorado collected over $103 million in permitting fees and sales taxes from the cannabis industry and spent only about $8.5 million to run its regulatory agency. That leaves plenty of money to spend on schools and education, law enforcement programs, homeless programs and anything else.

ON DRIVING WHILE USING: Sheriff Royal has said that in Colorado, traffic fatalities and accidents have increased as a result of legalizing cannabis. While the numbers do point to an increase, it’s nearly impossible to tell if these crashes were the direct cause of cannabis use.

The issue with these numbers is that it’s currently not possible to test for inebriation. Authorities can test only for the presence of cannabis metabolites, which can stay in the body for days and even weeks after the effects wear off. All that a positive test indicates is that the driver has been exposed to or used cannabis at some point in the past days or even months.

Even the Colorado Department of Public Safety, which studied the impact of legalization in the state, has officially said that it’s impossible to objectively interpret the data they collected.

In its March 2016 report, the agency states that legalization may have resulted in reports of increased use, when it may actually be a function of the decreased stigma and legal consequences regarding use rather than actual changes in consumption patterns. The agency goes further in stating that those reporting to poison control, emergency departments, or hospitals may feel more comfortable discussing their recent use or abuse of marijuana for purposes of treatment, accounting for the increases that Sheriff Royal states are the direct cause of legalization.


Sheriff Royal continues to say publicly that cultivating cannabis is about money and greed. His opponents could claim his crusade against medical cannabis is about bigotry/intolerance and misinformation.

With a budget that takes up one third of the revenue Nevada County collects, Royal can continue to fund his ideological campaign against cannabis instead of devising new strategies to protect us from increasing crime and heavily abused, truly harmful drugs: alcohol, prescription painkillers, methamphetamine and heroin.

I doubt Sheriff Royal will cease and desist from misinterpreting data to further his personal agenda. There are patients who depend on this natural, non corporate-pharmaceutical medicine. Suggesting these people leave their homes in Nevada County because he doesn’t agree with their medical decisions is itself criminal. I believe the Sheriff’s job is not to impose personal beliefs on the will of the people, but to protect and serve the taxpayers of this county.

David Kupfer lives in Nevada City.

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