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Marijuana front-porch smoking allowed under surprising Denver City Council amendment

The headline on a post published around this time last Tuesday -- "Marijuana: Denver City Council ban on front-porch smoking looks bound for victory" -- reflected the conventional wisdom regarding an addition to the Denver pot ordinance that would have made smoking weed on front porches and front lawns an offense that could have resulted in a $1,000 fine. But conventional wisdom went down the chutes last night, when a rubber stamp turned into a direction reversal. Photos, video and details below.

As we noted in a November 25 interview with Amendment 64 proponent Mason Tvert, who scheduled a press conference from the balcony of his apartment to dramatize the subject, the amendment was initially characterized by critics as a sniff test, since it criminalized indoor pot smoking if the aroma could be detected by anyone outside the residence where it was taking place.

Denver City Council last night, in a 9News image.
Denver City Council last night, in a 9News image.

Complaints about this notion from figures such as council member Susan Shepherd led to some tweaking of the ordinance. However, a subsequent draft still stated that "it shall be unlawful for any person to openly and publicly display or consume one (1) ounce or less of marijuana."

Moreover, the draft defined "openly" and "publicly" as, respectively, "occurring or existing in a manner that is unconcealed, undisguised or obvious" and "occurring or existing in a public place; or occurring or existing in any outdoor location where the consumption of marijuana is clearly observable from a public place," with the latter including but not limited to "streets and highways, transportation facilities, schools, places of amusement, parks, playgrounds and the common areas of public and private buildings or facilities."

Tvert interpreted this language as meaning the city council was "still trying to prohibit the use of marijuana by adults on private property. It's currently legal for adults to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes on their porches or balconies, so we fail to understand why it should be illegal to use a far less harmful substance there."

Councilwoman Susan Shepherd introducing her amendment last night.
Councilwoman Susan Shepherd introducing her amendment last night.

Nonetheless, the measure passed by a 7-5 vote, with a final reading, slated for last night, regarded as a pro forma exercise prior to its final adoption. But Shepherd upset those expectations by introducing an amendment that tossed the ban on front-porch and front-lawn smoking and promoting it with a fresh argument. As noted by 9News, she maintained that the previous draft encouraged neighbors to fink on neighbors in ways that would waste pressure city resources.

Councilman Albus Brooks.
Councilman Albus Brooks.

This approach managed to sway councilman Albus Brooks, who had previously voted in support of the ban -- and his switch was enough to result in an even narrower 7-6 vote in favor of Shepherd's amendment.

Councilwoman Jeanne Robb.
Councilwoman Jeanne Robb.

Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, the most vocal supporter of the ban, was understandably thunderstruck by this rare development, and while she subsequently spoke in tones that suggested acceptance that things hadn't gone her way, she and other ban backers have one last chance for victory.

That's because the Shepherd amendment must survive another vote, at the council's meeting next week, in order to go into effect. And given what happened this time around, no one's going to bet the pot farm on it sailing through without a fight.

Here's the 9News report about last night's action.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa October 18: "Marijuana sniff-test ordinance nullifies much of Amendment 64, councilwoman says."


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