Pubdate: Fri, 22 Aug 2008
Source: Washington Times (DC)
Copyright: 2008 The Washington Times, LLC.
Author: Valerie Richardson
Cited: Denver police
Cited: Safer Alternatives For Enjoyable Recreation
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)


DENVER - A city drug panel has voted to urge police to refrain from 
arresting adults for marijuana possession during next week's 
Democratic National Convention, but the cops aren't necessarily on board.

Lt. Ernie Martinez, the police department's representative on the 
panel, said police, bracing for potentially tens of thousands of 
protesters during the Aug. 25-28 convention, would have more pressing 
duties than rounding up pot smokers.

At the same time, he said, authorities wouldn't ignore blatant 
flouting of the law. "If something occurs in front of us, we're going 
to act," he said.

The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel, appointed by Mayor John 
Hickenlooper, voted 5-3 at its Wednesday night meeting to issue a 
recommendation discouraging police from "arresting, detaining or 
issuing a citation" to any adult caught with up to one ounce of 
marijuana during the four-day convention.

Denver voters have twice approved initiatives calling on police to 
overlook adult marijuana possession but police, citing state and 
federal laws, have continued to make marijuana-related arrests. A 
department spokesman yesterday said it was reviewing the panel's 

Mason Tvert, a panel member and pot-legalization activist, Thursday 
delivered a copy of the panel's recommendation to Mr. Hickenlooper 
and police Chief Gerry Whitman, saying that "we expect police to 
abide by this very logical recommendation."

"If police expect the taxpayers to cover their $1.2 million in 
overtime during the DNC, it is only fair that they respect the laws 
adopted by those taxpayers," said Mr. Tvert, leader of Safer 
Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation. "There will be plenty for 
police to do during the DNC aside from arresting or citing adults who 
are simply making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol."

Mr. Tvert told the panel Wednesday that authorities have actually 
increased their enforcement of marijuana laws since the 2005 and 2007 
votes. Based on current numbers, he said, the city is on track to 
prosecute 1,900 marijuana-related cases this year, up from 1,600 last year.

In 2005, Denver voters approved a measure legalizing adult possession 
of up to an ounce of marijuana. Two years later, an initiative making 
adult marijuana possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority 
also won at the ballot box.

Mr. Tvert said he hoped the police would give the panel's 
recommendation the same weight as if it were issued by the mayor.

"There's no way for the recommendation to be binding, but it was 
issued by a panel appointed by the mayor, so we would expect it to be 
treated as a pronouncement from the mayor," said Mr. Tvert.

The Denver County Sheriff's Office gave a media tour earlier this 
week of its temporary holding cell, a renovated warehouse intended to 
house anyone arrested during the convention.

The facility, equipped with a photo station and 18-by-18 holding 
cells, can process 60 people an hour and hold up to 400 detainees.

Local activists have already dubbed the facility "Gitmo by the 
Platte," referring to the nearby Platte River, but it could have been 
worse. Officials abandoned earlier plans to line the top of the cells 
with razor wire after objections from the community.

Authorities are bracing for potentially tens of thousands of 
protesters during the Aug. 25-28 convention. Demonstrators will be 
fenced in at a designated protest area in the vicinity of the Pepsi 
Center, the site of most convention events.

The protesters, affiliated with groups like Recreate 68 and the 
Alliance for a Real Democracy, are expected to demonstrate against 
the Iraq war and in favor of social-justice issues.

One anti-war organization, Tent State University, has estimated that 
its group alone will attract 50,000 demonstrators. The group had 
hoped to camp overnight at a local park until city authorities nixed the idea 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake