The proposed city ordinance in Denver that would re-criminalize possession of marijuana in some public places and impose a year in jail and $999 fine for marijuana smell got what seemed to be a pretty cool reception today. A council committee there took up the ordinance, beat it up and promised to revisit it, likely significantly redrafted, sometime down the road. What’s it matter to Seattle/Washington and The Pot Blog?
The proposed rules came about as backlash to open use of marijuana in the city and lingering concerns about the social issues legal pot brings up: How kids will perceive marijuana use, whether its use will degrade the business climate downtown and if people will have to live with the smell of pot the next time they throw a birthday party for their kid in a park …
Consequently, it seems prudent to expect efforts to curtail marijuana use here as the legal system comes on board, the legal marijuana market gets underway and people see and smell it more.
A few hearing details
After acknowledging that the citizens of Denver have over and over approved measures to decriminalize and then fully legalized marijuana, Denver Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell outlined the proposal.
He believes a city law banning possession of marijuana in some places would hold up in court because Amendment 64 (the law making it legal in Colorado) allows private property holders to ban it. So, the city should be able to ban it on land it owns.
Others at the meeting heartily disagreed, and several thought it would be a waste of resources fighting it out in court.
Also, the provision for arresting people in their homes or on their property because of the smell of it or because someone could see them using it through their windows was called out as “overreach” by several councilmembers.
They also pointed out that it would be expensive to enforce, cause friction between neighbors and with police. Also, the city already has laws for dealing with complaints about smell-invasions.
One councilmember pointed out that police enforcing the rules in public places could fall into the same profiling traps that has led many to look on the war on drugs as being a war on minorities.
“This is what gives me the most heartburn, and why I am sitting in this chair. I do not like to see people arrested for low-level offenses, and we know who those people are,” said councilman Paul Lopez.
Broadwell said public use of marijuana was different from alcohol because of the smell. Marijuana use is “in your face” in ways that can lead young people to think it’s a-okay to use.
“Both are intoxicants, but the expectation is that marijuana would be used in a lower profile way than alcohol,” he said, adding that keeping marijuana low profile was certainly in the spirit of the new law.
Councilman Chris Nevitt said he has been an advocate for treating marijuana as any other business, but “we also face the fact that we’re dong something new and out on a limb. So, how fast do we go down that road? How quickly and thoroughly embrace the normalization of marijuana?
“We need to move with some care and caution so that we don’t spark a backlash.”
Here’s the original version of this story:
Angered by the brash public smoking of marijuana in its city, Denver’s city council is considering a wide-sweeping law that would ban marijuana possession from certain parts of the city and level a stiff fine plus a year in jail for just the smell alone.
The draft law, set to be introduced today, states it’s illegal to openly or publicly display marijuana:
The term “openly” means occurring or existing in a manner that is unconcealed, undisguised, or obvious, and is observable or perceptible through sight or smell to the public or to persons on neighboring properties.
Occurring or existing in a place, location or in such a manner that members of the public or persons on neighboring properties may observe or perceive it by sight or smell, including but not limited to vehicles on public streets or highways.
“Your activities should not pervade others’ peace and ability to enjoy,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told the Denver Post. “Marijuana is one of those elements that can be quite pervasive and invasive. I shouldn’t have to smell your activities from your backyard.”
The ACLU countered:
“It will inevitably prompt police and community confrontations,” Mark Silverstein, legal director for American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, told the Post. “Amendment 64 said to regulate marijuana like alcohol. This is not. No one risks a year in jail for drinking a beer in their fenced backyard. And as for the banning mere possession anywhere on the 16th Street Mall, … I cannot believe Amendment 64 allows cities to make it a crime to carry a legal product in your pocket as you walk on a public sidewalk or public right of way.”
In Washington, I-502 made public consumption of marijuana a misdemeanor that carries, now, a $103 fine.
Section 21 of the state law says:
It is unlawful to open a package containing marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana-infused product, or consume marijuana, useable marijuana, or a marijuana- infused product, in view of the general public. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 3 civil infraction under chapter 7.80 RCW.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes has asked that the Seattle City Council adopt a regulation that mirrors the I-502 statewide provision for fining pot users.
“People pretty much expect, if they carry an open can of beer down the street, they will get a ticket,” he told us. “If those smoking marijuana don’t expect similar treatment, they are missing the point.”
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