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Marijuana: A Week After Initiative Vote, Denver Bites the Bullet -- Sort Of

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #510)
Drug War Issues

A week after voters in Denver for the third time in as many years sent a strong signal that they don't want adult marijuana smokers arrested, the city of Denver is moving to comply with the will of the voters. In response to the 57% passage of an initiative making adult marijuana possession offenses the city's lowest law enforcement priority, Mayor John Hickenlooper announced this week that he will create an 11-member panel to oversee and implement the initiative.

Denver skyline (from
The panel, whose composition was mandated in the text of Initiative 100, the lowest priority measure, will include one representative each of the Denver City Council, the Denver Police Department, Denver County District Attorney's office, the Denver City Attorney's office, as well as three criminal defense attorneys (one of who shall be a public defender), two Denver residents selected by SAFER Denver, the group that organized the drive, one drug abuse prevention counselor, and one member of the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee who is not also a member of law enforcement.

While Denver officials are taking steps to comply with the will of the voters, they still sound a bit grumpy about it all. "Given that adult possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is already one of the police department's lowest priorities, it is unclear what substantive impact, if any, the initiative's passage will take," Hickenlooper said in a statement.

Denver voted to legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults in 2005, but city officials have refused to recognize that act, instead ticketing people on the basis of the state marijuana law. They could still do that, Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman said in a statement.

"When an individual is cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana -- as Colorado state law requires -- it is generally because the marijuana was uncovered by police during the course of investigating another crime," said Whitman.

"We are glad to see our mayor and city officials will be respecting the will of the voters, and we look forward to working with them toward a more sensible marijuana policy in the city of Denver," responded SAFER leader Mason Tvert.

Denver had nearly 1,400 marijuana possession cases last year. Seattle, a similarly-sized city which passed a lowest priority initiative in 2003, and whose municipal officials have cooperated with it, had just 125.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

drug laws were brought to this world through fear and racism and although we have gotten rid of segregation there is still plenty of fear and its still causing all sorts of laws and limitations on "we the people". before we can get rid of these laws and all that crap we hate we have to open our eyes and see that it can all be changed to the greatest extent if you really just try

Tue, 02/26/2008 - 7:13pm Permalink

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