Pubdate: Tue, 28 Aug 2007
Source: Rocky Mountain News (Denver, CO)
Copyright: 2007 Denver Publishing Co.
Author: Stuart Steers, Rocky Mountain News
Cited: Denver City Council
Cited: Citizens for a Safer Denver
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Initiative Takes Some Heat Before Getting Approval

Denver voters will have the final say on whether the city should 
change its marijuana laws, but that didn't stop several City Council 
members from accusing pot activists of turning city elections into a farce.

"You're trying to make a joke out of the electoral process in 
Denver," said Councilwoman Carol Boigan. "I think this is aimed at 
street theater and capturing media attention."

The council voted unanimously Monday to refer to voters a ballot 
initiative that would direct Denver police to make the possession of 
less than an ounce of marijuana "the city's lowest law enforcement 
priority." Backers of the proposed ordinance turned in several 
thousand signatures to earn a spot on the November ballot.

Council members made it clear they believe the proposal will have 
little effect even if it passes, since state law bans marijuana 
possession. Even those who favor changing the nation's drug laws have 
found fault with the measure.

"The war on drugs is as misguided as the war on Iraq," said 
Councilman Chris Nevitt, who compared the country's drug laws to the 
failure of Prohibition. "This issue needs to be taken to the state 
and federal level. Denver voters have already spoken."

In 2005, Denver voters made the possession of small amounts of 
marijuana legal in Denver. Denver police, however, have continued to 
cite people who possess less than an ounce of the drug, saying they 
have to enforce state law.

Denver resident Sara Tafoya told the council she was pulled over 
earlier this year because she was driving without her headlights on. 
The police searched her and found an eighth of an ounce of pot.

Tafoya said she spent the night in jail and her car was impounded for 
more than a week. Tafoya said she asked for a trial on the charges, 
but decided to accept a plea bargain because she feared losing the 
aid that allows her to attend college if she'd been found guilty.

Others told the council that marijuana was more dangerous than many 
people believe.

"Marijuana is addictive. It has effects on brain development," said 
Shannon Mulcahy, a drug and alcohol counselor who works with 
adolescents. "It affects memory and concentration."

Proponents of the ballot measure said they don't dispute that 
marijuana can harm some people, but said liquor is far more 
dangerous, and yet the council approved a contract with Coors Brewing 
Co. to sell beer at the Colorado Convention Center.

"Alcohol leads to countless crimes in this city," said Mason Tvert, 
director of Safer Colorado, sponsor of the ballot initiative. "What 
message do you send when you hold hands with Coors?" 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake