Marijuana: Differences among members of council's recreational pot committee, chair says

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The first meeting of the Amendment 64 committee of the Denver City Council is scheduled to get underway at 3:30 p.m. today -- and while Councilman Charlie Brown, the panel's chairman, stresses that no votes will take place during the initial session, he expects a disparity of views among the members. "I'm hearing there are major differences among people on the council," he says.

At this point, the Obama administration has yet to announce whether it will allow Colorado to move forward with enacting the retail elements of Amendment 64 or attempt to block them. However, Brown stresses that "we're certainly not going to wait for the feds. We didn't wait for them on medical marijuana, and we're not going to wait for them on recreational. Especially since that city" -- Washington, D.C. -- "is basically dysfunctional. Give me a break."

With that in mind, Brown notes that "we're going to plow ahead and try to come to some conclusions, decide on directions and set some policy that will respond to the 66 percent of the people in Denver who supported this amendment."

Brown was not among them: He opposed the measure, as did Denver's mayor, Michael Hancock. Nonetheless, he was a logical choice to chair the Amendment 64 committee given his history of work on related issues. "I headed up the medical marijuana committee years ago," he points out. Yet he doubts this experience will guarantee quick agreement among colleagues about how to deal with the question of recreational pot.

"It's going to be challenging," he allows. "One contrast is that then-Mayor [John] Hickenlooper didn't get involved in our deliberations, but Mayor Hancock is going to be different. He will be involved. And from what I'm hearing, there are a lot of differences on the committee. I believe there are going to be some people who'll be against the commercialization of recreational marijuana in the City and County of Denver."

Granted, some matters may be easy to resolve. For instance, he feels that council rules about medical marijuana signage -- and, in particularly, a de facto ban on sign spinners outside businesses -- will carry over. In his words, "that's a given, I assume. If you can't do it for medical marijuana, I don't know why we would allow it for recreational marijuana."

Even so, he expects the debate over the big picture to be intense.

"Philosophically, the issue is, how recreational-marijuana-friendly do we want to make Denver? That's where we're going to have some real battles."

His own point of view is clear. "I'm very concerned," he says. "I've been hearing reports from the ski industry, for example, that you can smell marijuana on the ski lifts, which is frankly against the law -- open consumption is not allowed under Amendment 64. That brings up the question of enforcement, and what we can do to negate the image of skiing stoned in Colorado. I don't think that's an image we want for this industry or for this state.

"Do we want to change the name of the bison who runs out at CU games from Ralphie to Reefer?" he asks. "I don't know that it will go that far."

For today's meeting, the main presentation will be made by Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell. "There won't be any public speakers," Brown says -- but as time goes on, "both sides will have their opportunity to speak" at future sessions.

"This is going to be very interesting," Brown adds -- and this comment may be just about the only one likely to win universal agreement.

The meeting of the new Amendment 64 Committee will get underway at 3:30 p.m. in Room 391 of the Denver City & County Building.

More from our Marijuana archive circa 2009: "Live blog: Charlie Brown presents his pot proposal."

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