DENVER – A proposed Denver law that aims to curb pot smoking – even on private property – drew sharp criticism from marijuana proponents on Monday at a meeting of the city council’s Amendment 64 committee.
The law, supported by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, wasn’t embraced by several council members who questioned how the law would be enforced – and its constitutionality.
“I think we’ve had instances where we all feel that things have gone too far,” said City Councilwoman Judy Montero, who wants answers to questions before passing the bill.
“This overreaches,” declared City Councilwoman Jeanne Robb.
“It shall be unlawful for any person to openly and publicly display or consume one (1) ounce or less of marijuana,” states the bill.
Causing consternation is the bill’s definition of “openly” as occurring or existing in a manner that is unconcealed, undisguised, or obvious and is observable or perceptible through sight or smell to the public or to persons on neighboring property.
The bill specifically bans smoking in public, in accordance with Amendment 64 passed by statewide voters last year, but also makes concealed carry illegal in the city’s parks, including 16th Street Mall.
“You can consume 3.2 beer; you can’t consume Jack Daniels in a park – you can’t have Jack Daniels in a park,” said City Councilman Chris Nevitt, who helped craft the bill.
“The 16th Street Mall functions as a park,” he said. “We’re saying you cannot guzzle or possess Jack Daniels in a park… (and) we don’t want you to smoke or possess marijuana in a park.”
But other city counselors questioned whether the proposed law opens the door to illegal search and seizure which could result in lawsuits for violating civil rights.
The see-and-smell test includes smoking on private property – the front porch, the backyard and inside a residence if the recreation can be viewed or smelled through an open window.
“I am really concerned about the private possession (language),” said Montero. “(If it’s) in my pocket, in my purse, in my house, as long as it doesn’t leave my property and offend someone else, then to me it’s kind of off limits for us.”
The meeting drew more than 60 opponents to proposed law which they deemed “unconstitutional.”
“It’s not a question of whether the proposed ordinance is unconstitutional,” said Brian Vicente, a Denver attorney and co-director of the “Yes on 64” campaign to legalize marijuana.
“Rather, it is a question of how much the city will have to spend on legal bills before the ordinance is overturned,” said Vicente, who testified against the proposed ordinance at the committee meeting.
“It’s a ridiculous measure,” said Mason Tvert, Amendment 64 campaign co-director.
He told The Colorado Observer that it’s “hypocritical” to allow people to have 3.2 beer in the park and on the 16th Street Mall, but not allow people to have concealed weed while walking through these areas.
“Instead of combating the violent drunken behavior downtown, the police will be responding to (marijuana) smell complaints and looking into people’s windows,” said Tvert. “The whole thing is crazy.”
Denver City Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell said the governor’s marijuana task force, which developed recreational marijuana regulations, and the legislature failed to define “public use.”
“We wanted to go ahead and seize our own destiny,” declared Broadwell.