Press "Enter" to skip to content

Aspen and DEA agree to disagree about drugs

Brief by Allen Best

Law Enforcement – September 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

An Aspen man died of a heroin overdose in March. Although it got little attention at the time, an agent for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency is making sure it does now.

Aspen has long been at odds with federal and other jurisdictions about the war on drugs. Aspen’s attitude is best exemplified by Bob Braudis, sheriff of Pitkin County, who said he believes — and most Aspen-area residents believe — that drugs are a health issue, not one of criminality.

Jeffrey D. Sweetin, who runs the Denver Branch of the DEA, cited the heroin overdose as evidence that “drug distribution and abuse are present in Aspen.” And, he added, as long as they are, the DEA and willing partners “will continue to investigate and prosecute drug traffickers wherever they operate.”

The DEA in December 2005 conducted a raid at a popular Aspen restaurant. The raid, says Rick Carroll of The Aspen Times, “drove a wedge through the community: Some felt it was long overdue and sent a message. Others reasoned it was heavy-handed and unnecessary.”

Braudis does not allow his sheriff’s deputies to do undercover work. And by city law, Aspen police are likewise prohibited. But Braudis told the Times he would never hinder or compromise an investigation by other agencies — “unless they were violating our constitutional rights.”