(RJ Sangosti, Denver Post file)

Ignorance is bliss? Citations for public pot use increasing in Denver, Aurora

Police say there are people who believe that just because recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado on Jan. 1, anything goes and it’s OK to fire up a joint anywhere, anytime.

“We’ve become a destination because of marijuana, and it’s difficult for some people to understand the law,” says Denver police Cmdr. Matt Murray. “As a city, we’re trying to do more to educate the public.”

Citations for public consumption have risen dramatically.

In 2013, Denver police issued 184 citations for public display and/or consumption of pot. In just the first three quarters of 2014, there have been 668 such citations. That number doesn’t include another 221 citations for using pot in city parks, a new violation that was added to the books this year.

Murray said the Denver Police Department isn’t actively trying to up the numbers.

“I would say that almost 100 percent of the citations we’ve issued are complaint-driven; we’re not sending people out — people are calling and asking us to come in,” he said. “It’s not a case of us trying to defend our turf.”

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Also, some people are still being arrested on the more traditional charge of possession of marijuana.

In Aurora, officials said the arrests occurred because the suspect had a warrant, committed another criminal offense, was also in possession of more serious drugs or had a felony amount of marijuana.

Aurora police have issued 154 summons for possession of marijuana since Jan. 1. Officials said most of the tickets were given to people under 21 or for pot use in public. That compares with 118 citations issued in 2013.

The department this year has also arrested 51 individuals for possession. Fifty such arrests were made in 2013.

Meanwhile, there were 263 citations issued by Denver police for illegal marijuana possession through the first three quarters of 2014. There were 617 issued for all of 2013.

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Denver also reported that the number of arrests in which people were suspected of driving while under the influence of marijuana had more than doubled.

According to the city’s records, through Dec. 1, there were 61 citations for driving under the influence of drugs in which marijuana was suspected of being used. Over the same period in 2013, there were 26 cases.

Aurora police have arrested 150 people for driving under the influence of drugs in 2014; of that number, 101 were suspected of marijuana use. That compares with 78 in 2013.

Anthony Cotton: 303-954-1292, acotton@denverpost.com or twitter.com/anthonycottondp

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This story was first published on DenverPost.com