Pot smoking on front porches okayed by Denver City Council, school-related proposal dies

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Yesterday, Denver city councilwoman Susan Shepherd predicted that an amendment allowing people to smoke pot on their front porches and front lawns -- a reversal of a ban that seemed certain to pass -- would be approved at a meeting last night, and she was right. The new rules sailed through.

Not so another proposal that concerned Shepherd -- one that would have prohibited smoking within 1,000 feet of schools even on private property, like a home.

Critics of the front-porch amendment's first draft branded it a "sniff test," since it would have imposed a fine against anyone smoking in his or her home if the smoke could be smelled on an adjacent property. Outcry led to the tweaking of that language, but the revised version still would have made it illegal for an individual to smoke on a front porch or front lawn of their own abode if they could be seen doing so.

A ban was approved 7-5, with only a second reading and what was assumed to be a pro forma vote preventing it from going into effect. But at the last minute, Shepherd introduced her own amendment, which allowed front-porch and front-lawn smoking. And councilman Albus Brooks, who'd voted in favor of the previous amendment, changed course, saying he was concerned that enforcing the edict would waste law-enforcement resources.

As a result, Shepherd's document passed 7-6, leading to last night's 10-3 vote in favor of it.

Earlier in the day, as reported by the Denver Post, councilwoman Debbie Ortega's suggestion that smoking be banned within 1,000 feet of schools, regardless of whether it was on public or private property, died a quick death. And Ortega's other major offering -- a five-cent fee on plastic bags at many stores -- was withdrawn before a planned final vote.

As we noted yesterday, the plastic bag fee seemed to have more than enough backing from other councilpersons to pass. However, Mayor Michael Hancock opposed it, arguing that the costs would be disproportionately borne by elderly and lower-income shoppers.

Not that the fee is dead. Ortega reportedly pledged to do more research before bringing it back to the council in March. And the council's action on marijuana hardly closes the book on that topic, either.

"I know there are still people on the council upset about smell issues, particularly from grow operations," Shepherd told us yesterday. "I wouldn't be surprised to see that come back in some sort of potential ordinance." Likewise, she believes "the whole private club issue" may return before long. In her view, "there's going to be a conflict with people who wish to consume but don't have a private space to do it -- like tourists. We know that people are going to come here from other states to consume, and where they're going to consume legally is a big question."

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Allowing pot clubs one of fourteen priorities for Colorado NORML."

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