Pubdate: Thu, 19 Jan 2006
Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Copyright: 2006, Denver Publishing Co.
Author: Sue Lindsay, Rocky Mountain News
Cited: Sensible Colorado
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Prosecutor Says He's Going After Other Marijuana Cases

The city on Wednesday dismissed a pot possession charge against the 
first person arrested after Denver voters backed a measure legalizing 
small amounts of marijuana.

Defendant Eric Footer, 39, learned of the decision to throw out the 
case when he appeared at a hearing with plans to plead not guilty to 
the charge.

Footer, a real estate consultant, was cited Nov. 17. Voters passed 
Initiative 100 on Nov. 1.

"We view this as a real victory for Denver voters and a validation of 
what happened in November," said Footer's lawyer, Brian Vicente, who 
also is executive director for Sensible Colorado.

"Denver voters spoke loudly and clearly on this issue, and it looks 
like Denver officials are listening," he said. "The city has 
recognized there is better use of resources and taxpayers' money than 
prosecuting these cases. We hope this will send a message to police 
that the city attorney views this as futile."

But prosecutor Greg Rawlings said the dismissal of charges against 
Footer means no such thing.

Rawlings said he dismissed the case because of problems with the 
search of Footer's car.

Officers stopped Footer after a motorist complained that Footer had 
pounded on his vehicle. Footer, who drove away after the altercation, 
maintained the man nearly ran over his foot.

During the traffic stop, Footer dropped his keys on the floor of the 
car, prompting officers to quiz him about what he was reaching for. 
After officers ordered him out of the vehicle, Footer shifted his 
cell phone in his pocket - a move he said led police to suspect he 
might be reaching for a weapon.

Police patted him down, then asked if they could search his vehicle.

"When they didn't find anything on me, they said, 'we're going to go 
ahead, if it's all right with you, we're going to search your 
vehicle. If we do that, is there anything there that you shouldn't 
have?' " Footer recalled after the incident. "And I said, 'No. Go ahead.' "

Footer, who said he uses marijuana to ease the pain of three enlarged 
spinal discs, knew there was marijuana in the vehicle but said he 
didn't think twice about consenting because he thought pot had been legalized.

Officers cited him after they found a small amount of pot and a pipe.

"I didn't think there was sufficient probable cause for this search 
and I didn't think we would be able to prevail," Rawlings said Wednesday.

But the decision has nothing to do with the controversy surrounding 
the case and has absolutely no bearing on any other pot possession 
cases, he said.

"I am prosecuting a number of marijuana cases today and will continue 
to prosecute them," he said. "These cases are a large part of the 
docket every day."

Nonetheless, backers of a state initiative to legalize marijuana 
applauded the move as a signal that Denver won't pursue those 
possessing small amounts of pot.

"I don't believe it had to do with problems with the search," said 
Mason Tvert, campaign director for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable 
Recreation. "We believe it had to do with the pressure put on the 
city by people who voted in this initiative."

Tvert urged others charged in Denver to contact his group, which 
plans to put a statewide measure legalizing adult pot possession on 
Colorado's November ballot.

"We will continue to encourage people to challenge these cases if 
they are charged," he said.

Footer said he was pleased and relieved by the dismissal of charges 
against him.

"I see it as a personal victory and a victory for all people who 
voted for this initiative, " he said. "I'm representing everybody who 
voted on the initiative. That's who I am here for."

Footer said he believed he was "abiding by the law."

The measure approved by Denver voters makes it legal for adults to 
privately possess less than an ounce of marijuana.

But it remains a crime under state and federal law.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake