Pubdate: Fri, 04 Nov 2005
Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Copyright: 2005, Denver Publishing Co.
Author: Alan Gathright
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Denver Officials Say Prohibition Still Law

Denver voters may have legalized adult marijuana possession Tuesday,
but the political fuming, fighting and "Mile High" fun-poking is just
firing up.

Passage of Initiative 100 by 53 percent of voters ostensibly changed
city law to legalize private adult possession of 1 ounce or less of

But city law enforcement and political leaders say the vote was merely
symbolic, because state law trumps local ordinances. Denver District
Attorney Mitch Morrissey and police officials warn that pot possession
will continue to be prosecuted under state law as a petty offense
punishable by a maximum $100 fine.

Now, Denver officials are feeling heat and heckling, both from
residents outraged that leaders are ignoring the will of the voters
and citizens worried the city is going to pot.

Jay Leno unleashed his first Mile High zinger on Wednesday's Tonight

"Fifty-three percent of the people approve of having marijuana in
Denver, how about that?" Leno said. "How does that make Bush feel?
He's 14 percent behind pot now."

Then there are headlines from Moscow to London toasting Denver as the
new U.S. pot capital.

"For the national, and, indeed, the international media, this
initiative is a hell of a lot more important than (Referendums) C and
D. It's unbelievable," said City Councilman Charlie Brown, an
outspoken foe of the marijuana measure, who'd just completed his
umpteenth debate with pro-pot point man Mason Tvert, on the MSNBC
cable network Thursday.

Brown had already taped a Madison, Wis., talk-radio show and is booked
for a national FOX News TV show and a Florida talk-radio fest this

The councilman slams Tvert for using "Make Denver SAFER" campaign
signs and billboards calling for reduced domestic violence. He said
voters were flim-flammed into thinking I-100 was about highly
publicized concerns about Denver's rising crime and the need for more

Tvert counters that Brown and other elected leaders are hypocrites for
condemning pot while condoning alcohol use, despite studies showing
that alcohol fuels deadly violence, car wrecks and abuse.

Brown said his office has been scorched by profanity-laced e-mails and
phone calls - both local and out-of-state - from marijuana backers
demanding: "How can you turn down what the voters have commanded?"

"But we've also had calls on the other side from people who are
concerned about what this law means for our city and children of Denver.

"Candidly, it is an awkward position to be in, because when the voters
speak, they speak," Brown said.

But, he said, the state attorney general, Denver district attorney and
city attorney have said the city cannot flout state law.

Said Councilman Michael Hancock: "I think the message is horrendous
in this day and age when we're trying to deal with the growth of drug
use, particularly by our young people. Once I came out publicly
against it, I got quite a few e-mails from across the nation from
folks who said: 'Thank you for standing up for our communities on
this issue.' "

On TV, Brown said he's trying to defend "Denver's side of the

"I think (I-100's passage) was a protest vote by a lot of people who
don't think the federal war on drugs is working," the councilman said.
"Absolutely, we need a discussion on this stuff . . . But let's not
maintain that by passing this, spousal abuse will decline or that this
is going to make Denver safer."

Tvert counters that city officials are hiding behind the state law
issue, fearful if they enforce I-100 they'll face a law-and-order
backlash at the ballot box. "The city attorney and the police and the
City Council and the mayor are capable of implementing this," he said.
"It's a question of whether they will."

Mayor John Hickenlooper's office has received a couple of dozen calls
and e-mails running the spectrum of opinion, said spokeswoman Lindy
Eichenbaum Lent.

So far, police spokesman Detective John White said he's received no
reports of anyone being arrested for pot possession since the measure
passed. But it's only a matter of time, given officers' ticket forms
only bear a checkbox for the state marijuana possession violation.



* City citations for pot posses-sion have dropped from 3,701 cases
in 1996 to 2,072 cases in 2004. Percentages are of total arrests and

Year Cases Percentage

1996 3,701 3.6%

1997 3,331 3.3%

1998 3,500 3.4%

1999 3,354 3.4%

2000 3,193 3.4%

2001 2,979 3.4%

2002 2,776 3.4%

2003 2,489 3.5%

2004 2,072 3.2%

Source - Denver Police Department
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake