The Denver City Council continues to approve rules and regulations on marijuana in preparation for the Jan. 1 rollout of the recreational pot industry and on Monday will have two more votes.
The council will have a public hearing and will vote on whether to decriminalize marijuana possession for people between 18 and 21, a measure being pushed by Councilman Albus Brooks, who saw an inequity in how offenses are prosecuted.
People under 18 caught with an ounce or less of pot are never jailed and instead are sent to the city and county’s juvenile assessment center. People older than 21 prosecuted under the city’s marijuana offenses, such as public smoking or displaying weed on the 16th Street Mall, are given small fines that begin at $150.
But people between 18 and 21 caught possessing less than an ounce of marijuana can be prosecuted with up to a year in jail or face fines of up to $999. In a committee meeting last week, however, Assistant City Attorney David Broadwell said that rarely occurs.
“This issue of marijuana possession for people under 21 is a major issue on the state level,” Broadwell said, adding that the legislature will likely take up the issue next session.
“There is going to be an elaborate law dealing with sentencing and treatment,” Broadwell said, citing a report from the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice.
Nevertheless, Brooks has offered the bill to change the city’s laws.
In the committee meeting, Brooks said it is important that the city gets something on the books in advance of the Jan. 1 deadline, when marijuana can be legally sold in licensed stores to people 21 and older.
If Brooks’ bill passes, people between 18 and 21 would face the same fine structure as those over 21 — fines that would ratchet up after the first offense from $150, $500 and $999. For those under 18, the court would retain the prerogative of required treatment in lieu of fines.
The council approved the bill in a committee last week and now will hold the first vote on Monday. A public hearing will be held to gauge community opinion.
Also, the council will vote on another bill that would prohibit the display, consumption, distribution or growing of marijuana on any city-owned property, including streets and sidewalks, within 1,000 feet of any public or private school.
This could have been a much more imposing law if the council had agreed to limits on private property within 1,000 feet of a school, which was Councilwoman Debbie Ortega’s original intent. But that bill died in committee.