Second Pot Initiative Passes in Denver

Voters in Denver have passed Question 100, making adult possession of less than one ounce of marijuana the city’s lowest law-enforcement priority. By early this morning, with a majority of ballots counted, Q100 had earned at least 56% of the vote.

In addition to making adult pot possession last in line for enforcement, the measure also directs the mayor to appoint a panel that will monitor how police and prosecutors actually handle pot cases. In 2005, Denver voters passed the city’s first pot policy, voting to remove all penalties for simple possession by adults. Despite that victory, pot arrests there have hit an all-time high, reports Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation, the group behind both ballot initiatives.

Despite clear voter preference for the measures, which suggest that city voters have a grasp on what’s at stake – that is, keeping people out of jail for a non-violent offense, and the realization that casual pot smoking isn’t worse than boozing, regardless of what the government says – city leaders continue to voice their opposition to the measures. That includes Mayor John Hickenlooper who, ironically, is also proprietor of the popular Wynkoop Brewery. Denver police don’t target pot smokers, the mayor’s spokeswoman Lindy Eichenbaum Lent told the Denver Post in an email. And, she continued, “[g]enerally, when a person is charged with possession of less than an ounce…it is because the marijuana was uncovered by police during the course of investigating another crime.” This doesn’t exactly make a whole lot of sense – like, why not arrest for the other crime and ignore the piddling amount of pot? That is, if the “other crime” is actually worthwhile. Anyway, Hickenlooper’s interesting viewpoint notwithstanding, Denver cops apparently aren’t hip to the initiative either, and thus aren’t interested in being responsive to the community they police – more to the point, it seems they just can’t help but comment to the press about how they don’t intend to comply with voter will. “Our official response is to continue to enforce marijuana laws,” DPD Sgt. Ernie Martinez told the Post. “It’s still illegal in the state statutes and federal statutes.”

Still, Mason Tvert, SAFER executive director was pleased by last night’s election result and says that city officials are on notice: “The people of Denver have made it unmistakably clear that they do not want their city wasting its limited law enforcement resources arresting and prosecuting adults for possessing a drug less harmful than alcohol,” he said in a press statement. “Whereas marijuana users were once the law-breakers in the Mile High City, city officials will now be the ones violating the law if they do not respect the will of the voters.”

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