Policy

Once More, With Feeling: Leave Pot Smokers Alone!

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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.