In what's become a debate over civil liberties and compliances with a new state law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the Denver City Council on Monday floated suggestions on the best ways to regulate the open and public consumption of pot.
A recent draft law, crafted by Councilman Chris Nevitt and introduced before a council committee, allows people in Denver to smoke in their backyards. It would also allow for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in parks and on the 16th Street Mall and make violations a petty criminal offense that carries a maximum $100 fine and/or 24 hours of community service.
But questions on Monday among some council members about restrictions on marijuana use on private property and criminal charges that could result from violations have a new proposal slated to be drafted and introduced at a meeting next week.
"There are some discomforts, and we're going to try to address them and get it right," Nevitt said.
Under the current draft, consuming marijuana on a front porch visible from the street would be prohibited. Moreover, the current draft would allow marijuana possession, though it would ban "display and distribution," throughout central downtown and in parks.
Council members, such as Paul López, were concerned about restrictions on smoking marijuana on a private front porch or balcony.
"People should not be criminalized for doing something on their own private property, whether it's drinking a beer, smoking a joint or smoking a cigarette," said López, who also expressed concerns about potential criminal charges violations would carry.
A mixture of proponents and opponents of the current draft legislation testified before the committee Monday. The passage of Amendment 64 last November allows for the legalized recreational use of marijuana for those 21 and older.
Nevitt's initial draft legislation, introduced last month, would have banned even the smell of pot wafting from from someone's backyard. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have called that proposal unconstitutional.
Some of the concerns Nevitt plans to address in his new draft legislation to be presented next Tuesday include:
• Criminal vs. civil violations.
• Whether to include the downtown central business district or only the 16th Street Mall banning "display and distribution" of pot.
• Retaining current ordinance language around private property or exclude violations related to public consumption of pot on private property
• Addressing "smell" or "odor" emanating from private property
"We are taking a multi-pronged approach to this complex issue, and I am confident that we will come up with a good ordinance that addresses how Denver can consume marijuana as the voters of 64 intended," Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman said.