Denver, Colorado – A panel convened to implement a voter-approved Denver ordinance making possession of small amounts of marijuana the “lowest law enforcement priority” voted Wednesday to approve a resolution urging police to refrain from making arrests or issuing citations during the Democratic National Convention.
Mason Tvert, leader of the group Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), said city police and prosecutors are ignoring the will of the voters. He said the city still requires violators to show up in court, which he warned could clog the court system. “After the Democratic National Convention ends, there will be hundreds of marijuana cases all showing up at the same time,” Tvert said.
He told a community-based panel on marijuana enforcement charged with implementing the new law that preliminary figures show arrests are rising, not declining. Panel members said that’s proof police are ignoring the new law. “The numbers speak for themselves,” public defender Frank Moya told Vince DiCroce, the city attorney’s director of enforcement.
Last year, the city prosecuted 1,600 cases. Tvert said based on current numbers, the city is on track to increase that to 1,900 this year, not counting any surge of arrests that might take place during the convention. DiCroce said police are required to enforce laws, including state laws, if they witness a violation. “It’s certainly not our function to vote on suspending laws for a certain period of time,” he told the 10-member panel.
Tvert said the ordinance was not meant to cover public marijuana use. “We’re not suggesting demonstrators publicly use marijuana,” he said. Tvert said conventioners will be consuming large amounts of alcohol and they should have an alternative.
Lt. Ernie Martinez, representing Denver police on the panel, said police will have bigger priorities during the convention, but police won’t give up their authority. “If something occurs in front of us, we’re going to act,” Martinez said. The resolution passed 5-3, with two abstentions. City officials say the resolution is not binding.
Tvert and his group successfully pushed a 2005 initiative to legalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for adults over 21, but the move failed to blunt arrests because authorities continued to enforce state laws. It was patterned after a Seattle law that Tvert said is working. Tvert tried to pass an identical measure at the state level but was rebuffed by statewide voters.
– Article from the Examiner, August 20, 2008
– Visit www.SAFERchoice.org!