Denver's District Attorney is rebutting criticism over a letter he sent to two anti-marijuana campaigns in California in October.
Californians will vote this election on a measure that would legalize recreational marijuana. Denver DA Mitch Morrissey said he was asked by two groups opposed to the measure to answer two questions: has crime gone down and has legal marijuana freed up law enforcement resources.
Morrissey, a long outspoken critic of legalized marijuana, wrote that the city's police department is busier enforcing marijuana laws and investigating crimes directly related to marijuana, "than any other time in the history of the city." (Read the full letter below.)
Morrissey's letter includes various statistics from Denver and across the state that show crime rates rising. But it drew criticism from analysts and advocates alike. A marijuana expert told The Denver Post that Morrissey wrongly insinuates that legalized marijuana leads to higher crime rates.
“The district attorney’s letter shows a pretty strategic use of data that ends up being insulting to the public,” John Hudak, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brookings Institute, told the Post.
The newspaper also referenced Denver Police Department analysis that says rising major crime rates are more likely caused by an increase in the city's population, not from legalized marijuana.
In an interview with The Denver Channel, a marijuana advocate rejected Morrissey's implication of marijuana and accused him of "politically campaigning."
In turn, Morrissey told The Denver Channel he was simply responding to the request from California.
"What I was trying to do is accurately reflect the facts as we know them since we have legalized commercial marijuana," he said.
Morrissey has been Denver's district attorney since 2015. He is term-limited and will be replaced after the election.