Breaking News:EVENT: No Time Like the Present: Drug Policy Reform is More Urgent Than Ever

Feature: Denver Votes to Make Marijuana Offenses Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

For the third time in as many years, voters in Denver told local officials to quit arresting people for marijuana offenses. An initiative that would direct the city to make adult marijuana possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority won Tuesday with 57% of the vote.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/saferrally.jpg
SAFER rally, August 27, 2007
The vote came two years after the marijuana reform group SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) pulled off a successful initiative to legalize the possession of up to an ounce in Denver -- a win city officials have ignored by continuing to arrest people under state law -- and one year after Denver voters gave majority support to marijuana legalization in a failed statewide initiative.

The measure rolled to easy victory despite the opposition of Mayor John Hickenlooper and other city officials who said it was meaningless and would not be enforced. It was also opposed by the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, both of which editorialized against it.

Denver now joins cities like Seattle; Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood, California; Missoula, Montana; Eureka Springs, Arkansas; and -- also on Tuesday -- Hailey, Idaho; that have embraced the lowest priority movement.

The question now is how city officials will respond to a third rebuke from voters. The mayor's office did not respond Wednesday to inquiries from Drug War Chronicle. SAFER executive director Mason Tvert said officials were huddled Wednesday afternoon trying to draft a response.

But Tvert wasn't waiting to celebrate. "The people of Denver have made it unmistakably clear they do not want their city wasting its limited law enforcement resources arresting and prosecuting adults for possessing a drug less harmful than alcohol," he said. "Whereas marijuana users were once the law-breakers in the Mile High City, city officials will now be the ones violating the law if they do not respect the will of the voters."

In Seattle, arrests for adult marijuana possession plummeted following passage of the initiative, and in Missoula city officials recently adopted an official policy directing police to stop citing adults for possession and encouraging prosecutors to treat any cases as their lowest priority. That shows it can work in Denver if officials cooperate, Tvert said.

"The experiences of these other cities proves that Denver can make changes in how they handle adult marijuana possession," Tvert said. "We hope city officials will respect the will of the voters who elected them and direct police to stop arresting adults for simply possessing small amounts of marijuana. It's not a matter of whether they can do this, but a matter of whether they will. If they do not, they are officially breaking more Denver laws than any adult marijuana user."

Tvert wasn't the only one crowing, nor was he the only one warning elected officials to take heed. Spokesmen for leading national marijuana reform organizations used almost identical language when contacted by the Chronicle.

"This is good news, but not unexpected," said Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "The mayor should be looking at who he represents. In three election cycles now, Denver voters have clearly said don't arrest pot smokers."

"We're very, very pleased," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Hopefully, this time Denver city officials will listen to the message the voters have so clearly sent them."

That hasn't happened so far. Tvert and SAFER are waiting to see if it will. "At this point we're just wondering what they're going to do," he said. "The big tough city officials who were willing to say how they were going to ignore this have been mum all day, waiting for the mayor to take the lead. Will they challenge this in the courts, or will they announce they will follow the will of the voters?"

Stay tuned. All the dust hasn't settled yet in Denver. But the voters have spoken loud and clear for the third time. Perhaps it will take a city official getting defeated in the next election, but perhaps city officials won't want to take that chance now.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

durr

one cant take any drug everyday with out getting serious problems. this includes asprin, ibp, cold medications, EVEN CAFFEINE! on the other hand i can smoke 20 joints each day and complain of cardiovascular problems. i cant believe the gov doesnt legalize marijuana when drinking is legal. it is 10 times my powerful and the more addicting then herion..... wtf?????

Couldn't be any clearer to

Couldn't be any clearer to me. That's what the people in Denver want, let them have it. If it's that big of deal to someone, they don't have to live there. If the mayor does anything, might as well just throw out voting.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <i> <blockquote> <p> <address> <pre> <h1> <h2> <h3> <h4> <h5> <h6> <br> <b>

More information about formatting options

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School