The Denver City Council had its third and final vote on a city ordinance regulating marijuana consumption and approved the toking of marijuana on private property even if it can be seen by the public. The 10-3 vote is final and means that adults 21 and older can smoke pot on their front porch, backyard or on any private property where the owner allows, regardless if the public can see or smell it.
This third vote follows a roller coaster of political fighting over what constitutes “public” use of marijuana, which is still illegal in Colorado. In an initial 7-5 vote (with an abstention), the council had approved language that banned any toking that could be seen or smelled by the public. Consumers protested that that kind of ban would prevent people from enjoying their constitutional right to toke on their own front porch if people on the sidewalk could see it.
As the week wore on and complaints mounted, the city council began to understand the impracticality of such a ban. Neighbors would turn in neighbors, police would be busting people in their own homes, parents would have to toke indoors in front of their kids, and people who lived in apartments might not ever be able to toke. The second vote, held Monday, had flipped to 7-5 against the sight-and-smell ban.
The city council also codified its regulations regarding possession by people under 21, with a $150 fine for a first offense, $500 fine for the second, and a $999 fine for every subsequent violation. Rules were also set to limit the personal cultivation of marijuana to six plants per adult with a maximum of twelve plants per household. Councilwoman Jeanne Rob explained that the plant limits will be zoning, not criminal, offenses, adding, “It's not going to be a police state, where officers are going to go in and inspect your house. It's going to be complaint-driven.”
Marijuana stores will open to the public in just three weeks, though there is expected to be only 12 in operation in Denver on the January 1 opening day. Cannabis consumers who have driven by dozens of “green cross” shops on Colfax or elsewhere in Denver will have to search carefully, as most of those medical marijuana dispensaries have not opted in to the recreational system. Call ahead to find what shops will be open for business on New Year’s Day for recreational customers.