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ACLU Worried About Hancock’s Proposed Pot Ordinance

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CBS4's Howard Nathan talks with Mark Silverstein of the ACLU (credit: CBS)

CBS4′s Howard Nathan talks with Mark Silverstein of the ACLU (credit: CBS)

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DENVER (CBS4) – There’s more controversy over legalized marijuana after some members of the Denver City Council want to limit open consumption. Marijuana advocates say the city may be violating the spirit of Amendment 64.

Under the proposal smoking marijuana at a park or other public places could lead a fine of almost $1,000 and a year in jail. But what’s causing alarm to marijuana smokers is how Denver might be defining how much is too much in the privacy of a person’s property.

People were passing out free joints in Civic Center Park last month and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock was not happy about it. Now he’s proposed a new attempt to make it illegal to openly smoke marijuana on private property. It’s seen by some as a rollback of what Colorado voters approved.

“You have to wonder, what are they’re smoking?” Mark Silverstein of the Colorado American Civil Liberties Union said.

Silverstein says he’s read the draft of the proposed Denver marijuana ordnance, and he’s worried.

“Are they going to ask police officers to go back to the days when they would say they smelled marijuana and that gave them the right kick down the door and arrest the people inside their living room?” Silverstein said.

Hancock’s spokeswoman Amber Miller says the goal is preventing excessive pot smoking, the kind that creates a haze like at a 4/20 rally. If people do that in their yard, the police may come knocking.

The mayor also issued a statement saying, “This proposed ordinance clearly communicates what our residents and visitors are and are not allowed to do in public. It respects the will of the voters, which allows people over 21 to have and consume a small amount of marijuana. It also ensures that our public spaces remain enjoyable for residents, families and tourists.”

The ACLU says cities have the right to ban the open consumption of marijuana.

“But this proposed ordnance stretches that definition artificially, unreasonably, and says it’s open public consumption if you’re doing it in the privacy of your living room or privacy of your backyard if some of the smell happens to get out,” Silverstein said.

Amendment 64 backers are warning the ordinance will lead to lawsuits.

The city will be discussing the marijuana ordinance on Monday. Public comments are encouraged.

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