Denver Police Doing the Right Thing

Denver has turned positively European when it comes to pot. Stoners who smoke in public are getting away with it most of the time. It’s gotten to the point that tourists are complaining about the sight of tokers on city streets.

Voters in Colorado, along with voters in Washington State, passed an initiative in November that made possession and sale of small quantities of marijuana legal. It’s still illegal to smoke in public, though, and a ticket carries a $100 fine.

But the police aren’t handing out many of them. Denver Police wrote only 20 tickets for public consumption of pot during the first six months of 2013, most in the spring and summer. It’s more than the eight they wrote in 2012, but only slightly.

Police spokesman John White told the Post no policies had changed.

“If individuals are observed consuming marijuana in public, they will be cited,” he said.

There are no figures on how many people smoke weed in public places in Denver or on whether their numbers are increasing. But the Post cited a number of marijuana critics who say they see more tokers on the streets.

“If individuals are observed consuming marijuana in public, they will be cited.”

-John White
Police spokesman

Some tourists have complained, though Rich Grant, a Denver tourism spokesman, said the issue has drawn no more irritation than others that tourists write about. In fact, he said, his office gets letters from smokers wondering whether the law will leave them any place to toke.

“At this point, nobody really knows what it’s going to be like or a lot of the details,” said Grant.

Masonn Tvert, one of the voices behind the legalization initiative in Colorado, saidthat ticket statistics don’t reflect anything about actual public consumption. In the past, police punished public use by writing possession tickets, but since possession of minor amounts is now legal, those tickets are no longer written.

“Nothing strikes me as being different now than it was last year, in terms of what I hear about marijuana use in public,” Tvert said. “By keeping the public use of marijuana illegal, it is continuing to deter public use. There’s no reason to think that those laws are all of a sudden not going to keep deterring use.”

He pointed out that public alcohol consumption is a much bigger problem. According to the Post, in the first six months of 2013, police issued 651 tickets for public consumption of alcohol or possession of alcohol in parks. That’s nearly double the number issued for all of 2012.

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