John McInnis gives a thumbs down to the Denver City Council following a narrow vote on Monday, Nov. 25, 20013.

Denver council gives initial OK to ban on open pot smoking

The Denver City Council on Monday gave initial approval to banning smoking marijuana on private property if visible from the street or sidewalk.

The council voted 7-5 in favor of the provision that effectively would prohibit pot smoking on Denver’s publicly visible lawns, porches and balconies.

The final vote is set for Monday.

“I really believe (that if) the front of your property is open, it is public,” said Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, who offered the amendment. “It does set the standard. I am trying to balance the rights of those who consume marijuana and those who want to protect some enjoyment of their own property.”

The vote came after an hour of public testimony by 26 people and another hour of discussion among council members.

For several weeks, the council has tried to write a law that would establish where people can smoke marijuana when they are on private property. The city is trying to put rules in place before legal sales of recreational marijuana to adults begin Jan. 1.

“Many of our citizens don’t know what the rules are,” said Councilman Charlie Brown, who voted against the amendment. “We need a proactive campaign to let them know what the rules are. We have 40 days to do it.”

Regardless of whether the law passes, Denver Police Chief Robert White said enforcement would be the police department’s lowest priority.

“Our primary (goal) would be compliance,” he said.

If the alleged offender was no longer on the porch or smoking marijuana when officers arrive, “that would be the end of our action,” White said.

Public testimony was both strongly supportive of forbidding marijuana smoking on front lawns and strongly against the measure.

“This is embarrassing,” said Robert Reginelli, who said the city will look foolish to the rest of the nation, which is watching how Denver adapts to legalized marijuana. “This clearly violates the will of the voters.”

Ashley Ebert, 23, said she smoked medical marijuana because she had cervical cancer and it helped her deal with the pain from chemotherapy.

“It is insane to not allow people to use it on their front porch,” she said. “You should teach your children what is OK and what is not.”

Christine Walravens, a physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, said she often sees young mothers who say they have been smoking marijuana throughout their pregnancy. She said the council should do anything it can to prevent children from being exposed to marijuana smoking.

“This is not the Denver that I grew up in,” she said.

Sandra Hagen Solin spoke on behalf of Smart Colorado — a group working on marijuana policy — and said her group is “holding the line” on this issue.

“As parents, we are taking responsibility to talk to our children, but we need your support,” she told the council before the vote.

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