At 8:30 a.m., Lacy Lee will go on trial for smoking marijuana at a pro-cannabis event -- unless, that is, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper grants a request expressed in a letter on view below from attorney Rob Corry, who represents Lee, and asks the city attorney to drop the case. But Corry's not betting the house on him doing so.
Corry is representing Lee pro bono, in part because he feels her case represents both injustice and waste. He says his client "was participating in a march downtown protesting marijuana prohibition, and a bunch of people were passing a joint around -- and it reached her." He considers her decision to partake publicly "expressive conduct. In America, if you can burn a flag, why can't you burn a joint to protest marijuana prohibition?"
In his view, this question is even more pointed in Denver, where voters approved medical marijuana in 2000, the legalization of the substance in 2004 and 2006, and the de-prioritizing of weed enforcement in 2008. Nonetheless, the city is going through the motions of prosecuting Lee, who faces a maximum penalty of a $100 fine.
"Can we really afford to be doing this?" Corry asks. "This is an expensive luxury that taxpayers of our city should not be required to bear. They believe marijuana ought to be legalized -- so why do they keep prosecuting people for it?"
He answers his own question like so: "They're almost like robots. They can't stop. Even though the voters have told them to stop several times, they aren't stopping. They've got to be wondering, 'How many times do we have to switch off this robot?'"
Hickenlooper could do so immediately, Corry feels. "He's the chief executive officer of the City and County of Denver. He appoints the city attorney, and the city attorney is bringing the prosecution. The police have already made their decision to cite her, but the prosecutor is supposed to bring some adult supervision to the situation. The prosecutor can stop a case at any time without asking police permission, and John Hickenlooper appointed the city attorney. So John Hickenlooper can stop this any time he wants to. But he doesn't want to."
Why not? "A cynical political analysis would be that he's running for statewide office and he wants to seem more conservative," Corry allows. "But I don't think that's accurate, because he was doing this years before he began campaigning for governor."
Judging by these comments, Corry doesn't really believe Hickenlooper will intervene on Lee's behalf -- but he considers her case to perfectly illustrate the counter-intuitive nature of continued marijuana prosecutions in Denver.
"This is going to cost the city much more than the maximum penalty, no question," Corry says. "And that doesn't even count the six citizens on the jury who'll be taken away from work places and families in order to sit there for a few hours and consider the case. Denver courts are crowded, and there are much more important crimes happening out there. Do we really need to waste our resources on something like this?"
Page down to see Corry's letter to Hickenlooper:
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Letter from Rob Corry to John Hickenlooper
October 18, 2010
The Honorable John Hickenlooper Mayor, City and County of Denver 1437 Bannock Street Denver, CO 80202
Re: City and County of Denver v. Lacy Lee, Denver County Court Case No. 10GS207218
Dear Mayor Hickenlooper:
You preside as Mayor over what is possibly the most marijuana-friendly city on Earth. Denver's voters have voted four times, overwhelmingly, to medicalize (2000), legalize (2004 and 2006), and de-prioritize (2008) marijuana, more than voters in any other jurisdiction on the planet.
Despite this, your City still spends our money to criminally prosecute petty marijuana offenses. I represent (free of charge) Lacy Lee, an indigent young woman with no previous interaction with the criminal justice system. Lacy is the latest victim of the City's wasteful and expensive obsession with prosecuting marijuana cases. As a Denver resident myself, I agreed to take on Lacy's case pro bono to highlight the wastefulness of these prosecutions. Lacy was present at a First Amendment protest march against Marijuana Prohibition where there might have been marijuana present, although none was recovered by Denver Police. The City is still proceeding to trial without actual marijuana evidence.
Lacy's case is set for jury trial tomorrow, October 19, 2010 at 8:30 am in Denver County Courtroom 3G. This prosecution is brought in the name of our City by the Denver City Attorney, directly appointed by and answerable to you.
Mayor, please instruct your City Attorney to dismiss the case against Lacy Lee. This is your chance to conserve the resources of Denver's taxpayers.
Please call my office or cell phone at 720-629-7112 or email me at Robert.Corry@comcast.net with any questions or concerns, or if you need anything further.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Robert J. Corry, Jr.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana legalization: Mason Tvert blasts John Hickenlooper and politicos who dodge issue."