FILE -- A bag of marijuana joints

Denver council gives initial OK to decriminalizing pot for ages 18-21

As the sale of recreational marijuana becomes legal in Colorado Jan. 1, the Denver City Council on Monday night voted on measures surrounding its criminalization and public display.

Council members gave initial approval to a measure decriminalizing the possession of an ounce of marijuana or less for people between the ages of 18 and 21. Penalties would include only fines and no jail time.

Currently those between 18 and 21 caught with an ounce of marijuana or less can face hefty fines or up to a year in jail.

For those under 18 in possession of less than an ounce of weed, jail is not an option; instead they’re sent to the city’s juvenile assessment center.

“This in no way is making it legal for these young people to possess or consume marijuana,” said Councilman Albus Brooks, who championed the measure. “What it does do is make it so that these kids don’t have to live into adulthood with mistakes they might have made when they were 19.”

The measure imposes fines that increase from $150 for the first offense to $500 for the second offense and $999 for the third and any subsequent offense. The fine structure is similar to what people over the age of 21 face when caught smoking or displaying marijuana in public.

“This evens the playing field,” Brooks said.

Also Monday, council members gave initial approval to a measure that keeps marijuana away from public and private schools in the city. At its core, the bill prohibits the display, consumption and growing of marijuana on city-owned property within 1,000 feet of a school.

Both measures are slated for final votes next week.

This month, the City Council passed measures that allow people in Denver to grow 12 marijuana plants per household for recreational use and that allow weed to be smoked on private property, even if it’s visible from a public street.

Kurtis Lee: 303-954-1655, or

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