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With Republicans focusing on fentanyl and Colorado’s rising crime rate in the 2022 election, an Eagle County state senate candidate’s admission of “selling drugs on the side” in college is raising eyebrows ahead of this weekend’s GOP state assembly.
In his book “Fortunate Accidents”, published last year when he was an Eagle Town Council member, Matt Solomon wrote that when he was in college in the 1990s, he sold drugs after being suspended from the Wofford College football team.
Solomon, a Republican, is seeking his party’s nomination to run against state Rep. Dylan Roberts, an Avon Democrat and former prosecutor, in the potentially pivotal state Senate District 8 race in this November’s general election.
Solomon faces a possible June 28 GOP primary against Grand County Commissioner Rich Cimino, a former U.S. Air Force intelligence officer. Both are trying to garner at least 30% of the vote at Saturday’s state assembly in Colorado Springs.
A former paramedic and gun store owner, Solomon is now a security consultant and an adjunct instructor at Colorado Mountain College for Paramedic and EMT courses.
While attending Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., from 1992 to 1996, Solomon writes that he was suspended from the football team for four games for drinking at a fraternity party, which he denied. Solomon then quit playing football.
“The decision I made at that particular crossroads changed the trajectory of my life,” Solomon wrote. “I dropped thirty pounds of football weight, eschewed my regularly scheduled haircuts, got a job at UPS, worked security, bartended, and started selling drugs on the side. I dove headfirst into life away from football for the first time since seventh grade.”
In an interview with the Colorado Times Recorder, Solomon said he was selling small amounts of marijuana in the 90s and has no drug convictions on his record – felony or misdemeanor – and in fact was able to become a licensed paramedic and obtain a Federal Firearms License.
“There is no history of my ever committing a felony offense of any kind — in my book or otherwise,” Solomon wrote in an email (see his full statement below). “Nor is there anything anywhere that would warrant the accusation of committing a felony offense. The small amount of marijuana I sold to friends nearly 30 years ago would be legal today and the point of this inquiry would be moot.
“The only reason I reference that error in judgment in my book, “Fortunate Accidents”, was to show vulnerability in teaching the lessons shared in the remainder of the book, which were drawn from personal experience,” Solomon added. “As stated on the cover, the goal was to share my path ‘as an athlete, a paramedic, and an entrepreneur, to show how mindfulness and resilience contributed to personal growth, leadership, and surprising opportunities.’”
In Colorado, the sale of marijuana can be a federal felony, but the sale of four ounces or less without a license is a level one misdemeanor under state law.
Cimino, reached by email, declined to directly address Solomon’s admission in his book. He instead stayed on point with regard to the Republican Party platform on drugs.
“While it’s up to Congress and the president to fix our porous southern border with Mexico, along which so many deadly drugs flow, Colorado legislators should equip law enforcement and the criminal justice system with the tools they need to crack down on deadly drugs,” Cimino wrote.
“That starts with fentanyl. In 2019, the Colorado Legislature passed and Gov. Polis signed legislation decriminalizing possession of up to 4 grams of fentanyl,” Cimino added, alluding to a bipartisan bill passed with GOP votes. “That’s enough fentanyl to kill thousands of people. Fentanyl overdose deaths in Colorado have skyrocketed ever since. There is simply no good reason for anyone to possess fentanyl. Job one for the legislature should be recriminalizing possession of fentanyl.”
Colorado lawmakers are working on new fentanyl legislation.
Cimino did not address marijuana laws in Colorado, where possession for recreational use by people over 21 has been legal for nearly a decade. The U.S. House on Friday voted to decriminalize marijuana possession at the federal level, although the bill faces a much tougher path in the U.S. Senate.
Roberts, the Democratic frontrunner for the Senate seat where the two most populous counties are his home Eagle and neighboring Summit – both ski and tourism destinations — also declined to directly address Solomon’s admission in the book.
“As a former prosecutor and now as a legislator who has passed many bills to increase public safety, I believe that drug dealing of any kind is a terrible act that preys on our society’s most vulnerable,” Roberts wrote in an email. “The legislature is about to take significant steps to crack down even more against those who cause significant harm in our communities by selling drugs, and I support efforts to make that bill even stronger through amendments.”
However, Roberts went on to say addiction treatment and recovery programs also have to be properly funded.
“For those addicted to drugs, possession of any unprescribed drug (other than recreational marijuana over the age of 21) is rightfully a crime, but we need to continue seeking the proper balance between punishment and treatment by recognizing that addiction is a serious physical and mental health issue,” Roberts added.
“I am working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make historic investments in behavioral and mental health resources in our state,” Roberts wrote. “Moving forward, increased resources and smart policies are needed to impose proper punishment for drug possession and also provide the help that people need to recover, manage their addiction, and transition out of the criminal justice system when the time is right.”
Here’s the rest of Solomon’s statement on what he wrote in his 2021 book, “Fortunate Accidents”:
“If one reads the paragraph following the out-of-context quote you reference, one would read: ‘In the cinematic version of my life, the movie would paint the picture that my post-football experience was a fall from glory.’ The remainder of the book moves past that to show how I not only learned lessons from my mistakes, I made decisions that contributed to my personal improvement and the improvement of my community. As one delegate [to the state assembly] pointed out, ‘You made mistakes, you fessed up to them, and you moved on. We should all do the same.’ I learned to live a life of honesty and one of inspiration. I want people to learn from my mistakes so we can all be better tomorrow than we were today.
“Transparency is a way of life for me. It is one of the values I discuss during my campaign interactions. Transparency is a contributor to the integrity I pride myself in holding dear. It is disheartening and hurtful for me to maintain a shared promise of running a clean and positive campaign, only to have a low-point in my life used against me — out of context, especially when that low point is nearly three decades ago. It completely ignores all the good I have done and good I continue to contribute in my community. I will maintain my promise to run a positive campaign, as an example for how I will act as the Senator for Colorado’s Senate District 8.
“We have laws in place to combat the illegal drug use and trade. We need to support our law enforcement community to enforce those laws. We should offer resources to our public safety officers so they can help protect our community. We also need to educate our youth on the consequences of decisions and how to accept personal responsibility for their decisions, as I try to do as I lead by example. We are spending more money on resources for recovery and to support the mental health of our children, as they recover from experimentation with illegal drug use. I would love to see community policing programs so that children understand the ill effects of drug use in their lives. Rather than only utilizing public safety officers for enforcement, we can utilize them in the area of prevention, as well.
“I have taught classes to our high school youth on many occasions. I have spent a good portion of my adult life working with our youth in positive fashions — sharing the lessons I have learned the hard way so that they can fast track and be better than I when they reach my age. Their minds are hungry for knowledge, information, and guidance. Our youth is the greatest resource in our state. I will continue as best as I can to be a positive influence on our youth at the highest levels I can.
“Let’s come together as Western Slope Colorado and show the rest of the state how to act with integrity as we stay true to our values and be better tomorrow than we are today.”
Editor’s note: This story first appeared on the Colorado Times Recorder.