Russell Hebets Oct. 17, 2013

The Denver City Council appears to be stirring the pot again about, well, pot. If you are fans of our Facebook page (and if you’re not, you should be- click here to “like” us), you may have seen this article from the Denver post about a proposed Denver ordinance that would impose more restrictions regarding the possession and consumption of marijuana. The proposed ordinance, viewable here, would allow Neighbor A to call the police on Neighbor B who is smoking marijuana in his home if Neighbor B could be seen from the street by Neighbor A, or if the odor of the marijuana is detected by Neighbor A. The ordinance also criminalizes possession of marijuana in Denver parks and along the 16th street mall.

This draconian legislation has left me with this question- what in the hell is the Denver city council smoking? This law is blatantly unconstitutional and flies in the face of the passage of Amendment 64 and previous successful efforts made by the city council to decriminalize marijuana so that our precious police resources could be put to better use.

The law is unconstitutional not only because it infringes on a person’s Fourth Amendment right to be secure in his/her home from unlawful searches and seizures, but also because the law is vague and overboard in its application. Consider the slippery slope: the law allows Neighbor A to report something that Neighbor B is doing that is an otherwise legal activity, but since it bothers Neighbor A, Neighbor A can call the police. Let’s just say for example that Neighbor B isn’t smoking marijuana, but rather he is cooking pungent Indian food that bothers Neighbor B. The ordinance would not allow the police to get involved in this example. Why not? Why is marijuana being singled out? Why is marijuana smoke different from, say, cigarette smoke? After Amendment 64 was passed, the Denver city attorney and district attorney issued a press release saying that they will no longer enforce state laws for simple possession, and the Feds have also indicated that this is not something they are going to interfere with. So I pose this question to the legislature: if it’s legal to possess it, and legal to smoke it in one’s home, then how can using it possibly be criminal just because it bothers a neighbor? Where do we draw the line?

What is truly absurd about this bill is that it will do exactly what Amendment 64 attempts to prevent- it will undoubtedly require the police become much more involved in marijuana enforcement. One of the fundamental reasons that Amendment 64 passed was because Coloradans didn’t like the waste of time, money and resources that law enforcement agencies utilize to enforce marijuana laws. The implementation of this ordinance will take us back several steps in this regard.

The Denver City Council is concerned that Denver is becoming the marijuana capital of the world. This may be a legitimate concern. However, using this ridiculous law to combat that notion is, to quote Frank Zappa, like treating dandruff by decapitation. It is better for Denver to be associated with marijuana consumption than it is to become a police state. Let’s not allow the prosecution of law-abiding, private citizens.