Police to enforce pot laws during Democratic convention
August 18, 2008
DENVER ” Police say pot smokers who light up during the Democratic National Convention can expected to get busted under state laws, even though a voter-approved city ordinance makes small amounts of marijuana the “lowest law enforcement priority.”
“We’ve always enforced the state statute,” police spokesman Sonny Jackson said. “That was the law before the initiative and it’s nothing new. I don’t know why we’d relax any law.”
Mason Tvert, leader of the group that sponsored the ordinance that discourages marijuana busts, said city officials are ignoring the will of the voters.
He said a community-based panel on marijuana enforcement will meet Wednesday to get updated figures on enforcement, but preliminary figures show arrests are rising, not declining.
Last year, the city prosecuted 1,800 cases. Tvert said based on current numbers, the city is on track to increase that to 1,900 this year, not counting any surge of arrests that might take place during the convention.
“We’re concerned during the Democratic National Convention that they are going to use the law to cite people or detain them,” Tvert said.
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The initiative passed easily in November 2007, despite protests from city officials who said it was meaningless because state law takes precedence over city ordinances.
Tvert and his group successfully pushed a 2005 initiative to legalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana for adults over 21, but the move failed to blunt arrests because authorities continued to enforce state laws.
Tvert tried to pass an identical measure at the state level and 2006 but was rebuffed by statewide voters.
City Council member Doug Linkhart, who sits on the marijuana enforcement panel, said he believes police have made pot possession a low priority and doesn’t think there will be any problem during the convention.
“The ordinance says lowest priority, it doesn’t say stop prosecuting. I’m not concerned police will get carried away. I want police to focus on what’s important, and I expect they will,” Linkhart said.