Marijuana Prohibition Again in Denver Parks

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On Thursday, June 12, 2014, a new law is to be implemented in City of Denver parks: the consumption, use, display, transfer, distribution, sale, or growth of marijuana in any park will be prohibited. Infractions will be punishable with a $150 fine, escalating with repeat offenses.

This new rule will be in effect for all public green spaces within Denver, and throughout the Denver Mountain Parks system. Among many other areas, these include Lookout Mountain, Echo Lake Park, Summit Lake Park on Mount Evans, and Denver’s single most famous piece of real estate: Red Rocks.

This development seems worthy of a few moments of reflection. Especially since in the last election 66% of Denver voters – a very clear majority – said “Yes” on their ballots for Colorado Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

There is no similarly worded ban on alcohol going into effect for Denver parks, nor is there even discussion of anything like that. Where is the “Like Alcohol” intention of A64 there then?

Denver is a Home Rule City defined within the State Constitution as having the power to make its own laws, but when our last Mayor, Hickenlooper, was in office he and his staff always insisted that Denver needed to uphold all state laws, which included the State Constitution. Suddenly it now seems the City no longer feels like it needs to do that.

Yes, Amendment 64 allows city and county governments to have their own marijuana rules in respect to local governance. Yet, in my considered opinion, that is an “opt-out” option for places that don’t agree with A64. For example Kiowa County, where 68% chose “No” in the vote for Amendment 64.

Although I personally would never vote in favor of prohibition, it also makes sense to me that places where the majority of citizens do want to have such laws in place to restrict themselves can have them. I believe most deeply in democratic principles, even when election returns go differently than how I want.

Rather unlike some government officials I can think of…

Now Governor Hickenlooper famously said openly to the world media “I hate this experiment” when talking about the lifting of marijuana prohibition in Colorado. Our current Denver Mayor Hancock has also consistently spoken out against adults having this freedom to choose for themselves.

Of interest is that these two men are setting the tone for how their State and City employees, as well as their political understudies, relate to this topic. Considering this, maybe it is little wonder that marijuana is being treated more like public enemy number one than it is like alcohol here, at the same time as 55% of State of Colorado voters and 66% of Denver voters chose for it to be regulated like alcohol.

After this Thursday, June 12th, we will continue to see alcohol sold openly by vendors at Red Rocks, and at numerous publicized events in Civic Center Park – located right between the State Capitol and the City and County of Denver Building – while marijuana use, display, transfer or distribution (i.e. giving it to someone) will be punishable by the authorities.

This will be in effect, by the way, for the annual 420 gatherings which have historically been held there. Sale or growth of marijuana are to be newly prohibited in any park, but they are also already prohibited there by many other existing laws about selling or growing marijuana. Alcohol can be sold there with a permit, although I’m not sure about brewing.

Personally I feel more irritated when running across the many discarded beer cans and vodka bottles scattered around our parks than I do from seeing a spark held to a little pipe, or even someone looking at some grass a friend of theirs has. But, I guess my elected officials see this the other way around.

Oddly enough, or perhaps not, as I write this I am hearing sirens headed this way right now…

If you would like to go to the Parks Department public meeting regarding these new rules, it is to be held Thursday, June 12, at 5:30 p.m. in the Wellington Webb Municipal Building, at 201 W Colfax Ave., 4th floor, room 4.F.6. If you do go, please be respectful of others and of procedural etiquette even when you disagree with them, but also please take names of those who we should vote out of office, and share that information with me.