A marijuana plant

Denver council to make final vote on ban of pot smoking in public view

Denver is poised to become the world’s unofficial marijuana capital when legal sales of pot begin Jan. 1, but don’t expect to see it smoked on front yards, porches or balconies if the City Council has its way.

The Denver City Council on Monday is expected to take its final votes to approve a measure banning pot smoking on private property if the activity is visible from the street or sidewalk.

In a 7-5 vote last week, the council gave initial approval to an amendment to ban pot from front yards. Voting in favor were Jeanne Robb, Judy Montero, Jeanne Faatz, Debbie Ortega, Chris Herndon, Peggy Lehmann and Albus Brooks.

The vote came after an hour of public testimony and another 90 minutes of discussion among council members.

Pot advocates who oppose the measure say the idea of banning pot smoking on front yards is not in the spirit of Amendment 64 passed by voters in November 2012. They say it would perpetuate the stigma of marijuana and bring unwanted police scrutiny.

Proponents of the measure say people shouldn’t be allowed to smoke in public view because of the message it sends to children and that the display would give the city a bad reputation.

Denver Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell said the way the bill is written is legally sound.

The language of Amendment 64 prohibited smoking openly and publicly, leaving it up to local governments to define those terms. Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado in 2000, prohibited pot smoking in “plain view of … the general public.”

“It is our legal position that something could be deemed public whether it is occurring in a public space or visible from a public space,” Broadwell said.

Denver Police Chief Robert White said enforcement of the “front porch rule” will be the city’s lowest priority, and he speculates few citations ever will be written.

That’s OK with Smart Colorado, a group working on establishing laws to protect children from marijuana exposure.

Sandra Hagen Solin, who was speaking for Smart Colorado at last week’s council meeting, said she wouldn’t be bothered if there were no citations issued under the law.

“It is about setting community standards,” she said. “It is not an acceptable behavior on the front porch.”

Denise Maes, public policy director for the ACLU of Colorado, called the amendment “an unnecessary infringement on the property rights of Denver citizens.

“The amendment invites law enforcement to continue to sniff around homes and yards and to spend time and resources that should be going elsewhere,” she said in a statement. “Denver voters clearly indicated they do not want policing marijuana on private property to be a police priority.”

Attorney Brian Vicente, a co-author of Amendment 64, said the idea of banning pot smoking on private property in public view violates the spirit of Amendment 64.

“It is incredibly frustrating that the Denver City Council continues to look for ways to punish adult marijuana consumers,” he said in a statement. “The city should cease considering ‘Reefer Madness’ proposals such as this one, and, instead, look for more productive uses of their time and taxpayer dollars.”

Jeremy P. Meyer: 303-954-1367, jpmeyer@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jpmeyerdpost

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