Colorado's Rump Prohibitionists

A Denver suburb tries to opt out of marijuana legalization.

Colorado's Amendment 64, the ballot initiative through which the state opted out of marijuana prohibition, allows local governments to opt out of legalization. To a point. The initiative, which is now part of the state constitution, lets municipalities and counties ban pot stores within their borders, but it bars them from punishing residents for possession or home cultivation. Greenwood Village, an upscale, marijuana-unfriendly suburb of Denver, seems to have crossed that line in the guise of regulation.

Under Amendment 64, cities can ban marijuana businesses by ordinance or by referendum, with a requirement that the referendum occur in an even-numbered year (meaning November 2014 at the earliest). Furthermore, the marijuana law enacted by the state legislature in May makes local approval a condition of state licensing. As of September, more than 60 counties and municipalities had imposed bans or moratoriums on pot shops.

Greenwood Village, a town of 14,000 with a median family income of about $150,000, went further. The city council pre-emptively banned pot shops immediately after the passage of Amendment 64, which most of the town's voters opposed. Then, in January, it enacted an ordinance that purports to ban possession of marijuana or "marijuana accessories" on city property, including streets and sidewalks.

The upshot is that residents of the town may grow up to six plants in their homes, as allowed by Amendment 64, but may not take any of that marijuana anywhere else. They may not share their marijuana with friends, which is also permitted by the amendment, unless it's consumed in the same place where it's grown. Finally, the town's residents may not buy marijuana at a licensed store in another city and bring it home, since that would require possessing it on the streets of Greenwood Village. People passing through town after legally buying marijuana elsewhere apparently would be violating the ordinance as well.

Even the right to grow pot at home would be mainly theoretical, since the "accessories" banned from city streets and sidewalks include "any equipment, products, or materials of any kind" used to produce marijuana. That provision contradicts another ordinance approved by the city council that requires home growers to purchase and install ventilation systems.

The pot ban's sponsor, Leslie Schluter, argues that the city has the authority to impose these restrictions because it owns the property where they apply. "This is appropriate regulation to limit marijuana," she says. "Greenwood Village, as the property owner, does not wish to have marijuana on city streets or city sidewalks." City officials note that Amendment 64 expressly allows "a person, employer, school, hospital, detention facility, corporation or any other entity" to prohibit marijuana possession on its property.

Yet interpreting that clause to cover public streets and sidewalks, such that someone can be punished merely for driving through Greenwood Village with a sealed package of legally purchased pot in his glove compartment, clearly runs afoul of Amendment 64's command that possessing or transporting up to an ounce of marijuana "shall not be an offense under Colorado law or the law of any locality within Colorado." Denver attorney Rob Corry, who specializes in marijuana cases, says he'd be happy to represent anyone cited under Greenwood Village's ordinance. "That will fall if challenged," he says.

Although Corry doubts that a resident of Greenwood Village would be willing to offend his neighbors by challenging the ordinance, a motorist passing through might be less reluctant. "When that ticket is issued," he says, "if that case comes across my desk, then there's an easy constitutional challenge to the ordinance." Even The Denver Post, which editorialized against Amendment 64, condemned Greenwood Village's ban on pot possession in February, asking: "Are city officials under the impression that a constitutional amendment can be edited by local communities even after it has passed? If not, how do they expect the amendment's reference to 'transporting' marijuana to be honored if they've effectively outlawed that activity within their locale?"

Greenwood Village's attempt to override Amendment 64 reflects a deeper and more widespread anxiety among pot prohibitionists. Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson no doubt speaks for many law enforcement officials when he wonders how his officers can be expected to distinguish between an illegal pot stash and the perfectly legal produce of home cultivation. At one of the working group meetings leading up to the report issued by the Amendment 64 Implementation Task Force in March, Jackson recoiled at the "appalling," "horrendous," and "ridiculous" prospect of letting someone keep several ounces of homegrown marijuana, even though that is what Amendment 64 clearly requires, provided the pot comes from six or fewer plants. "I suppose he has a right to be appalled," says Corry, "but the voters decided that his outrage should no longer have criminal consequences."

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  • Live Free or Diet||

    I'm so hip, I always thought "rump" was a roast... or something you looked at on a pretty woman.

  • pan fried wylie||

    Even the right to grow pot at home would be mainly theoretical, since the "accessories" banned from city streets and sidewalks include "any equipment, products, or materials of any kind" used to produce marijuana.

    How does this not ban home gardening of any sort? That language bans fertilizer, potting soil, digging tools, ....well, everything used in standard gardening. I assume Greenwood intends to arrest all its illegal immigrant yardworkers, right? Can they prove those leafblowers aren't going to ever be used in cannabis cultivation? I didn't think so...

  • Zeb||

    Easy. It's not used to produce marijuana until you get it into your house and use it to grow marijuana,

  • pan fried wylie||

    Then what's the point of banning it from city streets and sidewalks if it doesn't become illegal until the equipment is in your house and being used to cultivate cannabis?

  • Wyrd Wulf||

    Mr. Corry: agreed. The freedom of the people does not bend to the self-righteous, prudish concerns of the self-appointed keepers of victimless morality. Let them concern themselves with actual crime.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Jackson recoiled at the "appalling," "horrendous," and "ridiculous" prospect of letting someone keep several ounces of homegrown marijuana

    What this fucker is recoiling against are the winds of change, which hopefully will bring a 90% reduction in the employment of these appalling, horrendous, and ridiculous overseers of morality.

  • Ketogenic Paleo||

    What's next? The Scopes Weedy Trials?

  • mrvco||

    I can't wait for the Greenwood Village PD to start pulling people over on I-25 and searching vehicles for

  • mrvco||

    ... an ounce or less of weed and/or gardening supplies. That area is popular with the in-call escorts servicing the Tech Center, I wonder if they'll use this as a pretense to run them out of the area as well?

    It's only a matter of time before we start hearing about "pot-crazed mexicans, blacks and other foreigners" stealing babies from Greenwood Village homes.

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Hearst Part Two!

  • Ketogenic Paleo||

    Why would they run escorts out of town as well? Undercover vice sting operations just wouldn't be the same without them.

  • Deputy Van Halen||

    It's a small, apparently wealthy suburb. This ordinance, constitutional or otherwise, is about maintaining property value.

  • bassjoe||

    Nullification?

    But, seriously... why are some people so opposed to pot? I have NEVER understood the obsession some have with the stuff. It's especially maddening when supposed fiscal conservatives demand scarce resources to fight the scourge.

  • mrvco||

    Because we have been programmed from an early age that "Drugs are bad, m'kay?".

    I've never been much of a pot-guy, but I didn't turn the corner until I realized that throughout high school, college and my 20's, it was always alcohol that was involved when things went bad (e.g. fights, property damage, death and injury resulting from DUI, etc).

    The worst thing that I can recall ever happening to my friends and acquaintances that were pot-people rather than binge-drinkers, is getting busted for possession.

  • Eric||

    I really don't know how this is possible. Greenwood Village is full of Republicans...and Republicans like personal freedom and liberty... At least way more so than those awful Democrats who are so much worse than Repbulicans.

    So why would Republicans choose to prohibit a personal freedom? I'm....really....confused. Please someone here help me understand why Team Red is better than Team Blue again because I'm begining to lose faith.

  • Deputy Van Halen||

    Greenwood Village is full of people that own their own homes, which are probably worth a nice chunk of change on average. The propping up of head shops, open drug use and the element that goes along with it, won't do wonders for that investment. In other words, it's a nice quiet community that the local chief of police intends to keep that way.

    In any event, this is really a mountain out of molehill. My guess is that however this turns out, you're not going to have a local paramilitary force looking for people that are in technical violation of a difficult to enforce local ordinance. And the people that may get caught up in this, are not the helpless victims of the war on drugs.

  • Eric||

    Concern Troll not nourished by ernest answer :( Hungry!

  • Ketogenic Paleo||

    Because... FYTW?

  • mrvco||

    What is in the middle of Greenwood Village?

    Fiddler's Green Amphitheater... a major concert venue in the Denver metro with seating for 18,000 people.

    Not that the herb wasn't being freely consumed at their concerts already, but I'm sure this presents them with an opportunity to step up their revenue generation efforts.

  • Troglodyte Rex||

    Seriously, fuck them. Law of the land. The tribe has spoken.

  • Mike Parent||

    Just a group of Prohibitionists living in unfounded fear and using haevy handed tactics to prop up the remnants of Prohibition.
    The town would be better served if the Police would focus on crimes that have actual victims. Any Coors execs. living there?

  • pronomian||

    They have no problem drinking and driving, texting a and driving, cheating on their spouses, cheating on their taxes, screwing the "little man," lie, cheat, steal, but God forbid having a place that sells the "evil weed." They've seen the gov't propaganda movie "Refer Madness," they know only from that and other anti pot facists how pot will corrupt the youth, make them sexually promiscuous, lazy, crazed murderers who don't remember what they did. On the upside though, they'll be able to play the piano really fast.

  • Michigan Dave||

    Leslie Schluter, argues that the city has the authority to impose these restrictions because it owns the property where they apply.
    No,I'm sorry Ms Schluter, the city does not own the property. The PEOPLE own the property.

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