Friday, May 31, 2013

Military and marijuana: The odd couple

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2013 at 12:49 PM

Amendment 64 Terrence McWilliams
  • Ryan Van Lenning

Arguments against allowing retail sales of recreational marijuana are just popping up everywhere these days.

Yesterday, during a Fort Carson Town Hall meeting at the DoubleTree Hotel, Terrance McWilliams, El Pomar Foundation's director of military and veterans affairs, told the crowd of roughly 150 people that recreational retail sales made possible by the voter-approved Amendment 64 would place the military in "serious jeopardy of being moved out of this area."

"If we really care about maintaining a strong military presence, you need to be standing before City Council against recreational marijuana," he said. "It's a serious issue that we all need to be taking a hard look at."

Mayor Steve Bach has previously stated the community could see its military presence go down the toilet if retail sales are approved. He's also said at a community meeting that the plant can wipe out young people's memories forever.

On Tuesday, several retired generals showed up at the Council meeting to deliver the same message — that recreational marijuana undermines the military's stalwart value of good order and discipline. (Council will hold a public hearing June 27, a work session July 8, and make a decision on July 28, according to Council President Keith King.)

McWilliams made his statements as part of the panel discussion about Fort Carson's future.

After the panel discussion ended and as people headed for a social-hour gathering, we asked another panel member, Maj. Gen. Paul LaCamera, commander of the 4th Infantry Division at Carson, to elaborate on how retail sales would lead to the loss of the military's presence here.

recreational marijuana Mayor Steve Bach Keith King
  • Pam Zubeck
  • LaCamera after Thursday's panel discussion.

We asked him if he was offended when people said recreational marijuana stores would threaten Carson soldiers, the insinuation being that soldiers are so undisciplined that they wouldn't be able to resist marijuana when available in retail stores.

"Am I worried about their ability to resist?" he replied. "I never really looked at it that way. I look at it as, well, it's against federal law. I'm a federal institution. It's a concern that family members who can smoke it off post and then make the mistake of bringing it on post on federal property. They can't bring it on Fort Carson."

Although Carson's gates provide security, LaCamera said he doesn't want to "shake everybody down" as they enter.

"I think it just goes against good order and discipline," he says. "It's against federal law."

The Military Times did a story about how installations will deal with the laws in Washington and Colorado. A McClatchy article also discusses what President Obama's administration will do in response to the Colorado and Washington voter-approved recreational pot laws.

There's no mention in either article of Washington officials fearing the loss of military installations because of the pot laws there.

But it's worth noting that six of nine Springs City Council members are ex-military: Val Snider, Joel Miller, Don Knight, Jill Gaebler, Andy Pico and Helen Collins.

Miller, Knight and Pico have said they oppose allowing retail sales.

Gaebler and Collins have said they won't reverse the will of voters, who approved Amendment 64 by a decisive margin in the city. And Snider and Jan Martin have said they're supportive of regulating recreational marijuana.

Council President Keith King and President Pro Tem Merv Bennett haven't publicly declared their intentions, but King embraced an endorsement from Tom Gallagher, who dropped out of the race and backed King before the April election. Gallagher's support came almost exclusively from the medical marijuana industry.

El Paso County imposed its own ban on shops in unincorporated areas months ago.

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