Voters in the Rocky Mountain town of Nederland, Colorado, voted Tuesday to remove all local penalties for adult marijuana possession. The measure passed with 54% of the vote in an election that also saw voters oust incumbent Mayor Martin Cheshes, who had opposed the ballot measure.
"It's a foolish thing to put on the ballot," Cheshes told the Daily Camera in nearby Boulder before the election. "If it passes, it enhances the reputation of Nederland as a kooky place, which I don't think we need, and if you're a marijuana advocate, it leaves the only penalties in place the state penalties, which are harsher."
Nederland becomes the third Colorado community to vote to legalize marijuana in the past five years. Denver voters did so in 2005, and the ski resort town of Breckenridge followed suit last year.
Under Colorado law small-time marijuana possession is decriminalized. Officials in Denver ignored the will of the voters there and continue to prosecute marijuana possession offenses under state law. But Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett may respond differently.
"I'll pay attention if it passes," he told the Daily Camera before the vote. "Marijuana enforcement is a sensitive issue, and it's important to gauge public sentiment."
"It's time for Colorado's elected officials to recognize that many -- and in some cases most -- of their constituents support an end to marijuana prohibition. Those who fail to do so are the 'foolish' ones, and in some areas it could result in them losing votes," said SAFER executive Mason Tvert.
"Nederland is not the first Colorado locality to express its opinion that marijuana should be legal for adults, and it certainly won't be the last," Tvert said. "More and more Coloradans are beginning to recognize the fact that marijuana is far safer than alcohol for the user and for society, and it's only a matter of time before they decide to stand up against irrational laws that drive people to drink by prohibiting them from making the safer choice."
The southwestern Colorado town of Durango could be the next to vote to legalize it, with organizers working to get an initiative on the local ballot. These votes are laying the groundwork for a probable statewide legalization initiative in 2012. A similar initiative got 44% of the vote in 2006, but recent polls show 50% of Colorado voters now supporting legalization.