Pubdate: Mon, 18 Nov 2013
Source: Aspen Times, The  (CO)
Copyright: 2013 Aspen Times
Author: Andre Salvail


The city of Aspen's recently passed pot regulations don't address 
open marijuana smoking on private property, according to the 
officials who crafted the new rules.

Basically, that's because at this point, the city doesn't believe the 
pot users, whether locals or visitors, will get out of hand. 
Therefore, it is OK for people to smoke in the comfort of their own 
yards, fenced or not, as well as their balconies, rooftops and 
patios. The city's law prohibits open smoking on public property, 
such as sidewalks, streets, parks and alleys.

Community Development Director Chris Bendon said if cannabis-smoking 
on private property leads to problems down the road, the Aspen City 
Council can visit the matter. The Denver City Council has been 
grappling lately with the question of private-property pot use and 
reportedly is headed toward a hands-off approach following some 
outcry from civil libertarians.

Amendment 66, the 2012 statewide referendum that requires marijuana 
to be regulated like alcohol, set the stage for Aspen's direction on the issue.

"The law prohibits open public consumption, but so do the laws 
surrounding alcohol," Bendon said. "You can't wander down the 
pedestrian malls with a beer in your hand. But if you're sitting on 
your porch having a beer, that's fine. Our approach was, if the whole 
intent was to model the (marijuana laws around the) liquor code, then 
that seems to work."

The possibility of massive clouds of marijuana smoke wafting from 
private property toward people on public property was not a major 
concern of Aspen city officials in the run-up to the pot-ordinance 
approval, Bendon said.

"We didn't take the bait on (pot smoke) drifting over to your 
neighbor and driving them crazy," he said. "It's funny how different 
communities are responding to this; every one seems to be responding 
in a different way. It's maybe a reflection of their own community 
outlook on things."

Those who rent property or own employee-housing units in densely 
populated complexes should check with their landlords or homeowner 
associations to see if rules prohibit open pot-smoking, local 
officials suggested. The same goes for visitors staying in local 
hotels - check with the front-desk agent or concierge. It's probable 
that the rules governing tobacco-smoking in affordable-housing 
developments and lodges would similarly be applied.

Aspen officials hope that marijuana-tokers will use common sense when 
lighting up on private property that's close to people using public 
spaces and thoroughfares. That means using proper discretion: Don't 
blow your smoke toward others, especially kids, and don't bother 
people with your THC-induced antics.

"It's maybe a neighbor-to-neighbor conversation," Bendon said. "If 
your dog runs over and (defecates) on somebody's lawn, or if your 
barbecue smoke is driving them nuts, or if you're playing music 
that's too loud, you probably need to have a conversation. The city 
doesn't need to build a wall around each one of those situations. So 
I think we took that perspective and tried to keep in mind that if 
(the marijuana rules) seem to be working well (as with) the liquor 
code, then that should be our model and our game plan."

Assistant City Attorney Debbie Quinn, who created the new rules with 
the Community Development Department, said a lot of time was spent on 
the "openly and publicly" provisions of the regulations in order to 
ensure that pot-users aren't lighting up all over town, such as the 
downtown pedestrian malls during the busy summer and winter tourist seasons.

"The law just says that it is unlawful to consume 'openly and 
publicly.' ... You might be doing it openly but on your private 
property, and that's not 'openly and publicly' consuming, that's only 
'openly' consuming, and we don't specifically prohibit that," she 
said. "If you were in your yard with a joint and walked onto the 
sidewalk, once you are on the sidewalk you are 'openly and publicly' 

According to a story in The Denver Post, the Denver City Council 
recently considered laws forbidding people from smoking marijuana in 
their homes if the activity was visible from public areas. The laws 
also would have prohibited pot-smoking inside a fenced-in backyard if 
the smoke could be smelled by a neighbor.

After some discussion, a majority of council members decided such 
regulations would be an overreach, but there still are some who are 
concerned about "open and private" consumption around children.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom