Prosecutions of adults for possessing an ounce or less of marijuana dropped by a fifth in Denver last year, following the passage of a November 2007 ballot initiative that instructed city officials to make such cases their "lowest law enforcement priority." Last summer it looked like the Denver Police Department was ignoring the initiative, as it had a 2005 ballot measure that repealed local penalties for possessing less than an ounce of pot. (Police continued to arrest pot smokers, charging them with violating state law.) But according to data recently presented to the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel, appointed by Mayor John Hickenlooper to oversee implementation of the 2007 initiative, prosecutions of pot smokers 21 or older fell from 2,105 in 2007 to 1,658 in 2008. "Our city punished far fewer adults for marijuana possession [last] year, yet the sky did not fall," says Mason Tvert, a member of the panel and the executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the group that ran initiative campaign. "Hopefully this is just the beginning of Denver's shift toward a more rational approach to marijuana."
The department will update its training to remind officers that citizens should not be arrested for exercising their First Amendment rights.
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