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Denver Council Straw Poll Sends Wrong Message to Voters

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The Denver City Council plans to hold a straw poll of its 13 members on Monday to see if the city should opt out of regulating recreational marijuana within the city limits.

Regardless of the final results, the straw poll will tell the voters in Denver that their voice is not what truly counts.

Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown told The Denver Post that the straw poll was just to officially get everyone on record so that they can move forward to regulate recreational marijuana. However, a straw poll is not only unofficial, but also completely unnecessary, as long as the council wants to adhere to the wishes of the voters.

Amendment 64 passed overwhelmingly in Denver last year and Denver Medical Marijuana shops made over $130 million dollars in gross revenues in 2012. It’s clear where the citizens of Denver stand on the issue.

Yet, the Denver City Council somehow believes it is in its best interest to finally get the council on record to see how they feel about the issue. My question is, if they vote to move forward, wasn’t the vote a waste of time and if they vote to not move forward, are they ignoring the vast majority of Denver voters?

At best, the straw poll is superfluous, and at worst, the straw poll will represent the council’s true desire to go against the majority of Denver voters.

Regulating recreational marijuana will certainly not be an easy task. It will also bring unintended consequences, like the legalization of medical marijuana did. However, just because it will be difficult and will create future problems doesn’t mean the city council can simply ignore the issue. Each of the 13 members of the city council voluntarily ran for election and pursued elected office. Difficult tasks like the ones before them now are all part of the job they sought.

The fact that the council will hold a straw poll seems to me to point to something beyond ignoring where the electorate stands on the issue, though. City Councilman Brown may have given us a hint in his answer that said this is only to get everyone on the record.

What good would a record be if it couldn’t be used someday in the future?

Maybe there are a few council people that want to be able to say that while they were bound by their civic duty to regulate recreational marijuana, they were against the idea for Denver from the beginning.

That standing may not have much value now, but when citizens are struggling through the growing pains of legalized marijuana in the next few years, that value may change considerably. While voters did approve the idea overwhelmingly, there are still many officials who are awaiting another major shoe to drop.

I have to assume that there are other benefits to this straw poll, at least politically, for the council members. Being an unofficial vote, in the face of overwhelming support from citizens, it wouldn’t make any sense whatsoever if it didn’t serve some other purpose.

What that exact purpose is, we may never know. But if there isn’t some ulterior motive, then it is simply another example of a city council proving their tone deafness to Denver voters.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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