Colorado: Under Denver Ordinance Just The Odor Of Marijuana Could Get You A Year In Jail
"Bad News, Dude: If That Pot You're Smoking Smells Like Pot, It's Not Legal Anymore"
By Steve Elliott
It seems the minute marijuana legalization was approved by voters in Colorado and Washington, some politicians started trying to find ways to undermine the will of the people. Now, in Denver, the mere smell of marijuana wafting from your backyard could be illegal if the city council passes a new ordinance.
The ordinance, which will be introduced at Monday's city council meeting, comes in advance of legal retail marijuana sales, which are scheduled to begin in January, reports Jeremy Mayer at The Denver Post.
The ordinance would prohibit pot smoking in parks and in the 16th Street Mall, and would also ban toking in private property if it is "visible to the public," such as on your front porch or in a car, or if the odor of cannabis could be detected from neighboring property.
"Your activities should not pervade others' peace and ability to enjoy," Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said. "Marijuana is one of those elements that can be quite pervasive and invasive," the Mayor claimed. "I shouldn't have to smell your activities from your back yard." The mayor didn't explain why we should have to smell his intolerance from ours.
If the ordinance is approved by the city council, the mayor will sign it and it will take effect immediately. Offenders could face a fine of $999 and up to a year in jail.
The ordinance is a "tremendous overreach, ill-advised, unnecessary and unconstitutional," according to Mark Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.
Silverstein said the ordinance would ban consumption of marijuana in the privacy of a person's living room if the window are open, or if the person can be seen from the street. (Actually, it's even worse than that: the smell of marijuana can seep outside even if the window's aren't open.)
"It will inevitably prompt police and community confrontations," Silverstein said. "Amendment 64 said to regulate marijuana like alcohol. This is not.
"No one risks a year in jail for drinking a beer in their fenced back yard," Silverstein said. "And as for banning mere possession anywhere on the 16th Street Mall, I cannot believe Amendment 64 allows cities to make it a crime to carry a legal product in your pocket as you walk on a public sidewalk or public right of way."
In November, Denver will ask voters to approve a 3.5 percent sales tax on marijuana that could be raised to 15 percent. A statewide ballot question is also asking voters to approve a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax that could be raised to 15 percent.
The Denver City Council last month approved an exhaustively stringent set of new rules and regulations for retail marijuana businesses. Denver is one of the few cities in Colorado taking steps toward legal retail pot sales to anyone over 21, approved by state voters as Amendment 64 passed last year.
The specific ban on marijuana in parks would nix Denver's massive annual 4/20 celebration. City officials are continually vexed by the huge smoke-in, worrying that the city will lose uptight tourists and offend families if public consumption of cannabis is tolerated.
Mayor Hancock said the event itself would still be allowed (it's not that he's a nice guy; it's that he can't shut it down due to free speech issues), but pot smoking in the park will not be tolerated.
"The organizers are going to have to think long and hard about the kind of risk they and their patrons will be taking by deciding to puff up at the park," Mayor Hancock said. "We are not going to tolerate it anymore. It's done. ... We want to make very clear, now and forever, and that is zero tolerance."
Apparently, Mayor Hancock's cheery campaign slogan of "We Are All Denver" doesn't apply to cannabis consumers.
Isn't it ironic when "marijuana legalization" results in a new law that can get you a year in jail for -- you guessed it -- smoking marijuana ON YOUR OWN PROPERTY? And as if that wasn't enough, this brand OF "legalization" (quote unquote) seems to somehow be taking down a hallowed 4/20 tradition for good measure.
(Photo: The Huffington Post)