Editorial: Why Hasn't Denver's Police Chief Been Fired for Violating Marijuana Laws?

David Borden, Executive Director

David Borden in Colorado
This week saw an unusual and encouraging move taken by the Hawaii County Council (the "Big Island"). Advocates seeking the deprioritization of marijuana law enforcement, and the continued rejection by the county of federal marijuana eradication grants, tried but didn't quite manage to gather a sufficient number of signatures to get their initiative on the ballot this November.

As it turned out, it was a sufficient number. The council, very uncharacteristically for such bodies, used its discretion to place the question on the ballot anyway. They thought it was important for people to have a chance to vote on this idea, and instead of protesting and resisting as governments have done in any number of places, they actually used their power to help it along.

Shift eastward across an ocean and two mountain ranges, one sees a different display of the use, or abuse, of power. In Denver, voters have passed marijuana reform initiatives not once, but twice. First, they voted to legalize personal possession of marijuana. Then, they voted to make marijuana enforcement police's lowest priority. They also voted in majority numbers for a failed statewide legalization initiative.

Nevertheless, city police continue to invoke state law to justify their flouting of the law that the voters who pay their salaries passed, and the city continues to allow them to do it. I understand that legal technicalities mean that police who don't cooperate with the statute can't be arrested for it. But if Denver has democracy, why hasn't the police chief who bears guilt for this continuing offense at least been fired?

Also this week, a panel required by the law -- the Marijuana Policy Review Panel, modeled after one that monitor's marijuana arrests in Seattle -- recommended that Denver police not do marijuana posession arrests during the Democratic National Convention coming up. Officials, not surprisingly given all that's preceded, have had discouraging words regarding their willingness to take the recommendation. But why should the recommendation even be necessary? It's the law, passed by the voters two times. Shame on them yet again.

And it's not like the panel only has marijuana reformers on it. According to the authorizing legislation: "The Panel shall consist of one at-large member of the Denver City Council; two residents of the City of Denver, as selected by the petitioner committee that initiated this ordinance; one drug/alcohol abuse prevention counselor; one member of the Denver Metro Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee who is not also a member of law enforcement; one representative of the Denver Police Department; three criminal defense attorneys, one of whom shall be a public defender; one representative of the Denver County District Attorney’s Office; and one representative of the Denver City Attorney’s Office."

Time will tell whether Big Island voters take the same wise step that Denver's voters have. But unlike in Denver, Hawaii County's leaders appear to respect their constituents. That bodes well for the policy's prospects if it does get the voters go-ahead. Deprioritization of marijuana enforcement is only one small step toward undoing the hideously destructive war on drugs. But it's a step nonetheless.

Unfortunately, Denver officialdom won't take that step willingly, despite law that now requires them to do so. Instead they will have to be dragged there kicking and screaming. Better that than letting the arrests go on, with people who never hurt anybody getting dragged off in handcuffs every day.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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growing Pot

Growing four plants a year will satisfy all but a few of pot smokers. The "heads" who light up day and night should be thankful they can grow any without constant looking over their shoulder. 24 plants is like somebody WANTS the proposition to fail.

Question for Mr. Knowitall

I'll see your 4 - 12' plants and raise you 12 - 4' plants. In case you can't count that high the quantity is the same so who the hell are you to dictate... a dictator?

Here's a much better idea... re-legalize the soft drug cannabis and re-criminalize hard drugs like alcohol which of course is the original 'gateway drug', and tobacco the real 'devils weed'.

Remember, alcohol kills more people each year than cannabis has throughout it's 1000+ year history.

So drink-up wanker, thanks to alcohols cloak of social acceptability, and enjoy your mental masturbations!

Billy B. Blunt
Tacoma, WA

Methods of Amendment?

Article 5 of our American Constitution: Propose two methods for proposing and ratifying amendments. I know our cannabis laws are not Amendments to the constitution, One of the propose methods would be for two thirds of both houses vote to propose an amendment. Another way, which I see no reason it should not be constitutional, is for the legislatures of three fourths of THE STATES to ratified an amendment. So here is my comment: If 37.5 states pass medical cannabis laws /cannabis decrim initatives, would it not be at that point The Law of The Land?

Denver Cops

Kicking and Screaming is probably the only way to get the Denver Cops, to enforce the law...as they are paid to do ! There's something wrong with this picture.

Ripe Old Age

I have been retired since 2002. I have enough money to get by and pay my taxes. All I want to do is grow my four plants, stay home with my cat and get high. I am I better off because I can't/don't?

We have a similar problem in California, but worse!

The police, prosecutors and politicians refuse to enforce our medical marijuana laws. Instead the local and State police work with the DEA and attack sick patients and their care givers. They wear full riot gear and carry machine guns. This is appalling. instead of protecting our citizens and respecting our democracy, they violate the will of the voters and the laws of our State. I think they should all be fired! For some resason this does not happen. It makes no sense how in our democracy, the police, prosecutors and politicians can so blatetly ignore the will of the people and violate our State laws.

Norman Lepoff, M.D. retired

The mayor...

..or city council could terminate the chief, if they desire. Obviously they don't care to. So how about a nice civil suit? Since their heads always respond to money. If OUR law enforcers do not obey OUR voted laws, we have a police state, don't WE.

Cannabis danger?

1st of all, Malkavian that was an excellent write.

2ndly I've always wondered which is more harmful
Bacon or Cannabis?

Malkavian's picture


Thanks :)

I'm sure the two substances could be compared on a number of weighed parameters. Both have pretty well known risk profiles. The real question is why anyone would want to know this? ;)

- On finding out that cannabis is the safer alternative, would you make pot'n'eggs from here on?

- On finding out that bacon is the safer alternative, would you smoke the stuff instead of cannabis - and does it work in a vaporizer at all?


The Constitution!!

The taxpayers who voted and passed the law in Denver should vote to lower the salaries of the police until they start doing what they're supposed to do,and as for the police chief?those same voters should hold a ralley or town meeting or go to the Mayor to have this man relieved,....our/there right to vote is in our constitution,if the police do not wish to uphold the constitution then they have no rights being police.

Denver's Infamous Cops

The Denver police department has a long history of prior civil rights offenses.  In one, they were busted by the ACLU for spying on Amnesty International and the American Friends Service Committee as part of Denver’s dubious anti-terrorism efforts.

So it’s no surprise the panel is trying to rein in their junkyard dogs prior to the convention.

What’s needed is a shake-up of the entire Denver Police department, not just the Chief.  It’s the height of idiocy and arrogance for the police to second-guess the voters on issues of liberty.  It’s also one of the characteristics of a police state.



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Peoples Republic of Denver

I live a few blocks from where Ken Gorman was murderded because he refused to pay the graft demanded by "The System". If they can't get you criminally, then they nail you in a civil issue in Colorado; it happened to me! And if that doesn't do the trick they try to kill you; it happened to me!
Commander Sandoval, the neighbors are saying that you're something of an incompetent bigot. Mr. Muse,Esq., Mr. Fine, Esq., & Mr. Hibbert Esq., some of have found out by experience how well the Denver city attorney's office keeps "secrets between lawyers". Homeland Security has known about me for years; they're wondering why there is a "growing domestic insurrgency". Could it be push has come to shove in this culture of corruption?

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