Thursday, November 03, 2005

Denver Is First City to Legalize Small Amount of Pot - Los Angeles Times

Story Excerpts

Denver on Tuesday became the first city in the nation to wipe out all criminal and civil penalties for adults caught possessing a small amount of marijuana.

The ordinance is more radical than pro-marijuana measures approved over the years in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and half a dozen college towns across the country. Most of those initiatives decriminalized marijuana for medical use, or replaced criminal penalties with small fines or directed police to make enforcement of marijuana laws a low priority.

Denver, by contrast, erased adult possession as an offense entirely.

In one stunt last month, (Mason) Tvert dragged a mock corpse in a body bag to City Hall and surrounded it with jugs from Wynkoop Brewery — which is owned by Denver's mayor, John W. Hickenlooper. He then piled bags of Doritos in a heap nearby. His point: Alcohol abuse can kill you. Marijuana gives you the munchies.

City officials reacted angrily to such tactics, warning that pot was a "gateway" to more dangerous drugs. They accused Tvert of confusing the public by using campaign signs that read "Make Denver SAFER." (The group's acronym stands for Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation.) Tvert insisted people understood his message.

"Success breeds success," said Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst with the pro-marijuana group NORML. "I think you'll see this campaign used as a model."

Even Hickenlooper, who opposed the measure, said he thought the vote might prove a bellwether.

"Peoples' attitudes [about marijuana] are changing," the mayor said. "We have one of the youngest populations of any city in the nation, so it makes sense that attitudes here might be changing faster." (more)


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