Drug Policy

Once More, With Feeling: Leave Pot Smokers Alone!


By 57-to-43-percent margin, Denver voters have approved a ballot initiative that instructs police to make possession of marijuana in small quantities (less than an ounce) their lowest law enforcement priority. Denverites already had voted to repeal local penalties for possession of less than an ounce, with no noticeable effect on arrests; police just charged pot smokers under state law instead. Citing this history, the Rocky Mountain News says, "once again, the vote likely means nothing." But Mayor John Hickenlooper has promised to appoint a Marijuana Policy Review Panel to decide how the new ordinance should be implemented. Initiative organizer Mason Tvert says:

Although these officials say adult marijuana possession is already a low priority, it could undoubtedly be lower. For example, the City of Seattle, which adopted a very similar lowest law enforcement priority measure in 2003, handled just 125 cases of adult marijuana possession in 2006, whereas Denver—a city with fewer residents—handled nearly 1,400.

Tvert also notes that a similar initivative has had a significant impact in Missoula County, Montana, where the local prosecutor has told police to lay off pot smokers. 

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  1. No problem, once Donderoooooo gets his libertarian hero elected pot will be legal nationwide.

    He’s a libertarian, right?

  2. “It likely sets up a likely court challenge over the whether a voter-passed initiative can govern the priorities of police and prosecutors.”

    I know, I know, it’s not so simple as “We payz u salareez so do what we say”. But still, this sentence does have a certain WTF? quality to it.

  3. Should the title be spoken in the voice of the “leave Britany Spears alone” guy?

  4. Somewhere in Europe, I think it was the U.K., a similar policy was accompanied by a reduction in pot use. It is not clear that the policy caused the reduction, but in any case, there was no increase.

  5. Please refrain from using relative URLs when creating hyperlinks – please use the full URL included domain name instead.

    It is very frustrating to read this blog from a feed reader like Bloglines or Google Reader, click on a link, and have it go nowhere because you typed /blog/show/123196.html instead of prefixing it with https://www.reason.com

    It sends users like me into a black hole of despair when we click incorrectly formatted links.


  6. It is nice here in Seattle 🙂

  7. drugs are bad, m’kay?

  8. ian,

    But the thing I would really like to see that has not happended yet: Shrub is still $40/eighth with no signs of decreasing, and supply has not noticably increased.

    Very frustrating for some of us.

  9. I’d like to see a nationwide study of all the police’s “low-priority” crimes.
    I jaywalk constantly through Sinincincinnati, sometimes right in front of city police or county sheriff cars. No tickets yet.
    As we all know, politicians are constantly passing laws for purposes of reelection, which they know police could not possibly enforce.
    Littering is another example: “Don’t trash the ‘Nati”

    Perish the thought, but are police a little too vigilant about drug crimes because of the possibilty of wads of potential confiscated cash or whatever?

  10. Ah, good old Missoula, my old stomping grounds, I may come back to you yet!

  11. Sounds like the Denver citizens need to recall their police chief and any other police officials who implement policies contrary to the new initiative or allow officers to charge under state law to thwart the voters.

  12. That may be overreaching, Brendan. Local voters on the whole have an inexplicably solemn attitude about the firing of public officials by fiat – four times out of five, loyalty to the person trumps the ideal of that person’s duty to the abstract entailments of their office. It would almost certainly be viewed as unfair to punish a police chief for making a judgment about the various levels of the law – particularly since we’re talking about a marijuana initiative that passed by only 14%.

  13. Didn’t the ONDCP spend quite a few $ trying to defeat these local measures? I would say that 57% to 43% in favor of making pot a low priority indicates the ONDCP is not an effective government program. It needs to be cast into the prohibition graveyard.

  14. I don’t live within the city limits and in the past like 27 years I’ve used pot 3 times, but I called talk radio and handed out broachers for this initiative cuz pot prohibition is a monstrous encroachment on individual liberty.

  15. Here’s a test case for a brave–BRAVE–patriot to undertake.

    Step 1: Get a parking ticket

    Step 2: Acquire a marijuana cigarette.

    Step 3: Go outside and light said spliff without having paid the parking ticket

    Step 4: When you go to court, argue that Denver police officers are demonstrably violating the law by disobeying its requirement to address serious crimes first.

    Step 5: Rot in prison while being consoled by the fact that you are being lionized on Hit and Run

  16. In case there are any doubts, the low number of arrests for pot in Seattle is not due to low usage. EVERYONE smokes pot here. I’m exaggerating of course, but I would not be shocked if 1/2 of us smoked pot at least once a month.

    $40/eighth isn’t so bad is it? Of course, if it pot were legal, the price would be a lot closer to 0. Personally, I would grow it myself and give it to any adult who wanted some. It is quite nice up here, isn’t it?

  17. sage wrote: It is quite nice up here, isn’t it?

    Figuratively, or actually?

  18. Sounds like what the state needs is an initiative that makes it so that the least restrictive penalties apply. Lawyers? What say you?

  19. One of the local Seattle weekly indie news rags ran a hilarious piece, one year after the low-priority ordinance, which was titled something like “Seattle’s dumbest pot smokers”. They profiled, rather amusingly, the 6 or 7 people that were actually convicted for possesion when the stuff is almost legal here.

    If i wasn’t so stoned and lethargic, I would look it up online and post a link to the article.

  20. http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=16226

    I’m rather stoned and lethargic right now myself.

    I’ve got the day off of work, I teach English to porn producers in Hungary and they’re out of town today so I’ve got a bag of chronic and an eigth of hash ready to go ^-^

    What was my point ? .. hmm .. forgot that one ..

  21. I’ve got the day off of work, I teach English to porn producers in Hungary

    This is a good job.

  22. C’mon, how the fuck did you land that gig??

  23. Me thinks me might just move to Seattle… 😉

  24. Funny, I haven’t heard Mitt Romney and Rudy Guiliani promise to cut federal aid to these cities.

    My goodness, what about the rule of law?

  25. And a similar initiative passed last Tuesday in the tiny town of Hailey, Idaho.

    It was sponsored by a self-described “libertarian Republican” named Ryan Davidson. Passed with over 60%.

    Davidson told the Missoula CBS TV News affiliate that he hoped it would lead to “overturning the state law.”

  26. joe, have you started drinking early? You’re not making sense.


  27. Episiarch,

    It looks bad for someone who claims to know so much about politics not to get that reference.

  28. joe, cut me some slack–I just wanted to rip you with a “drinking early” joke.

    But you didn’t refute it… 🙂

  29. To paraphrase Jimmy Buffet and Alan Jackson:

    It’s 4:20 somewhere.

  30. Well, in the best of places, it’s ALWAYS 4:20 …
    I think the anti-pot crusaders are ultimately doomed. Perhaps this is overly optimistic, but in an interconnected and aging world with a free-flow of information and a creeping liberalization of the prevailing polity, it will simply be counterintuitive and far too expensive to continue the more egregious aspects of the WOD. As the nation grows, so grows the number of pot-smokers. The government can stifle such a large demand for only so long.

  31. Technically, E, it would still count as being up late.

    My reference was to the Mr. Tough Guys’ comments about immigration “sanctuary cities.”

  32. I think demographics are a big part of this shift as well. The older WWII/Korean War generations that drank the prohibitionist “Kool-Aid” are passing away, leaving a population that has many current and former pot users. They scoff at the WOD propaganda, especially regarding pot.

  33. I’m rather stoned and lethargic right now myself.

    I’ve got the day off of work, I teach English to porn producers in Hungary and they’re out of town today so I’ve got a bag of chronic and an eigth of hash ready to go

    posted before 7:00

    This guy is my fucking HERO!

  34. — This guy is my fucking HERO!

    Thanks, I always get that for some reason. It’s 5:20pm here now, that’d make it 4:20pm in Amsterdam right about now ..

    — As the nation grows, so grows the number of pot-smokers. The government can stifle such a large demand for only so long.

    This is the same reason that it’s so hard to keep porn down.

  35. — how the fuck did you land that gig??

    Luck, I’ve been a professional English teacher for 8 years, moved to Hungary to move in with my g/f and put an ad in the paper saying a Canadian was looking for a place to work as a teacher.

    After so many shitty jobs I figured God owed me one good one.

  36. Seattle is not the green-haven you all seem to think. Sure you may not get busted, but your provider sure will, and their provider, etc etc. There are constant news reports of huge crops being seized all over the state, very depressing news.

    “ahh… I could’ve smoked that pot… and worn that hair!”

  37. I’m just trying to imagine a circle of pot smokers trying to say “Hickenlooper” without suffering a giggle fit.

  38. In Canada the laws were fairly lax too. Before the Liberals lost to the righties, that is. Now we’re set to go backwards with a new emphasis on Canada’s version of the ‘War on Drugs’ being instituted by the neo-con Tory government. The American government started this stupid, wasteful “War” Please – as Americans, if you stop it south of the border we can relax up here too; as our current government takes direction from yours. Freedom and liberty indeed… Take a look here for an entertaining, insightful story that I’m sure tokers (and perhaps all) will enjoy:

  39. Sotally Toned. Poke smot.

  40. Looks like I may be moving to Denver. Hopefully more appealing cities will follow suit so I can move somewhere it isn’t cold.

  41. its not our fault you guys are so unhappy you have to alter your reality by smoking pot. Wow, now that it is in words it makes me realize how stupid you are.

  42. To Anonymous:

    1: Pick a name, it’s not hard, my name is Windtell =p

    2: Your “spin” on that issue needs work. A one liner spin declaring you’re right and most of us (greater majority in a lot of states) are stupid doesn’t work on reason. We actually know issues and can think beyond that.

  43. its not our fault you guys are so unhappy you have to alter your reality by smoking pot. Wow, now that it is in words it makes me realize how stupid you are.

    And your point is? Well, you don’t really have a point except that you apparently disapprove of pot smoking. Ever go gambling with Bill Bennett? Just curious.

  44. The primary reason to outlaw marijuana is its effect on the degenerate races. Marihuana influences Negroes to look at white people in the eye, step on white men’s shadows and look at a white woman twice.

    How can you joke about a drug that makes darkies think they’re as good as white men?

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