In a surprise move, the Denver City Council reversed plans to ban marijuana smoking on private property if it could be seen from public streets and sidewalks.
If the proposed ordinance isn’t amended further before its final vote next week, residents can smoke freely in their front yards or on their porches and balconies in view of passers-by, just as they can drink a beer or smoke tobacco.
The proposal to ban pot smoking from public view, even if done on private property, caused an uproar last week, with opponents arguing that it infringed on property rights, violated the spirit of the law voters approved that legalized marijuana use by adults and would create headaches for police to enforce.
Councilman Albus Brooks, who supported the ban when it came up for an initial vote, told the Denver Post that he changed his mind over the Thanksgiving weekend after hearing from a number of city leaders.
“Their concerns were about private property rights and overpolicing in some of our neighborhoods,” he told the paper. “It’s a tough issue. Fear sometimes causes us to protect and doesn’t allow our city to grow.”
Councilwoman Debbie Ortega, however, said that it’s better to be more restrictive with marijuana laws since Colorado is treading new ground with a substance that has long been prohibited. She said she will introduce a new ordinance banning pot smoking within 1,000 feet of a school.
“I believe that it is our responsibility to be more restrictive, and then we can come back and look at where we need to make changes,” Ortega told the Denver Post. “It will be far easier to loosen things than taking those floodgates and try to close them sometime later.”
Next month, Coloradans who are 21 and older will be able to shop for marijuana in state-licensed retail stores. The new law also allows adults to possess and grow small amounts of the drug, which remains illegal under federal law.
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