A voter initiative that would make Denver the first large city in the country to legalize marijuana possession is headed for the November ballot after the Denver City Council Safety Committee Wednesday gave its okay. That action came after initiative organizers submitted petitions containing the signatures of more than 10% of registered Denver voters. The 12,500 signatures submitted were twice the amount needed to make the ballot.
The initiative is organized by Safer Alternatives For Alternative Recreation, the group that won initiative votes at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University urging university administration's to equalize the campus punishments for alcohol and tobacco. The measure would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by people 21 or over under the Denver municipal code.
But Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell told the council committee Wednesday Denver police would arrest marijuana possessors under state law. Under Colorado law, marijuana possession up to an ounce is a Class 2 petty offense, punishable by a $100 fine. The city has successfully challenged the preeminence of state over municipal law in the past, particularly over a pit-bull ordinance tougher than state law, but Broadwell said the city would not challenge state authority on the marijuana law.
City officials were equally
unenthusiastic about the measure. They could have adopted it themselves,
but instead opted to take it to the voters. "I don't feel comfortable
enacting it," said Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann. "I just don't support
But Mason Tyvert, executive director of SAFER, said the city should listen to voters. "We would hope the city of Denver will respect the will of the city," Tvert said. "Does it mean they will? I don't know. I have a strong feeling that it would improve the quality of life for the city."
In the meantime, local media are all over the story, Tyvert told DRCNet. "It is already generating quite a stir. We had four local TV news stories, and I appeared on today's edition of Good Day Colorado on Fox News along with a DEA agent. The DEA and government are already playing the "it won't make a difference" card -- the typical response when they fear the winds of change -- in order to break support for the initiative," Tyvert noted. The story also got play in Denver's two major newspapers, the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News.
Meanwhile, in the Rocky Mountain resort town of Telluride, the city council Tuesday passed a measure making marijuana offenses the "lowest law enforcement priority." It joins cities such as Ann Arbor, Oakland, and Columbia, Missouri, in having done so.