Denver’s city council is considering a proposal that would outlaw the smell of marijuana, even if it’s being used in private in compliance with the state’s new law that makes it legal for adults 21 and older to smoke pot.
The proposal, suggested by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in an attempt to keep the now-legal substance from offending non-smokers, has marijuana legalization proponents incensed.
“The hypocrisy of this proposal is astounding,” said Mason Tvert, the communications director of the Marijuana Policy Project, in an email to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Downtown Denver has been plagued with constant alcohol-related problems, yet city officials are proposing a crackdown on adults’ legal, private use of a far less harmful substance.”
Under the proposal, the smell of burning marijuana within city limits would be grounds for arrest. Possession of marijuana would also be outlawed on the 16th Street Mall in Denver, a popular pedestrian-only street, and in public parks.
That last aspect is an attempt to criminalize joint giveaways similar to those in recent weeks staged by opponents of a marijuana-taxing proposal on November’s ballot.
Marijuana advocates say Hancock’s proposal is a blatant violation of Amendment 64, which allows people who are 21 and older to possess small amounts of marijuana in public.
If passed, pot smokers could be arrested if neighbors smell marijuana and call the police, even if the marijuana is being smoked in a private residence or backyard. Critics have likened it to New York City’s controversial “stop and frisk” policy, only in Colorado it would be “sniff and frisk.”
In a statement posted to his office’s website, Hancock called the proposal a way of balancing Amendment 64 with the concerns of those who might avoid Denver because pot smoking could become more obvious.
“This proposed ordinance clearly communicates what our residents and visitors are and are not allowed to do in public,” he said. “It respects the will of the voters, who last year approved Amendment 64, which allows people over 21 to have and consume a small amount of marijuana. It also ensures that our public spaces remain enjoyable for residents, families and tourists.”
Advocates aren’t swayed and have already begun preparing a legal challenge to the measure in case it passes.
“This proposal is blatantly unconstitutional and puts the city at risk of a costly lawsuit that it is sure to lose,” Tvert said. “Two-thirds of Denver voters supported making marijuana legal for adults. They should not have to foot the bill for police to look in people’s windows and snoop around their homes sniffing for a reason to put them in jail.”
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