The proposed measure would create a new city ordinance designating private adult marijuana possession Denver's lowest law enforcement priority. Approximately 4,000 valid signatures of registered Denver voters will be required to qualify the initiative for the ballot.
Prior to the press conference, at 8:30 a.m. in the Denver City & County Building, a 21-year-old Denver woman will plead "not guilty" to charges of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Sara Tafoya was cited for marijuana possession in Denver after police stopped her on an unrelated traffic matter (for which she was not cited) and found about one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana in her purse. Ms. Tafoya was arrested and handcuffed. She was kept in a police squad car for more than 90 minutes while the police had her car impounded, then she was taken to jail where she was held overnight. Four officers and three squad cars were on the scene when she was arrested, and she was forced to pay a $200 bond to get out of jail and $300 to retrieve her car from the Denver impound.
"Using so many of our city's limited resources to arrest and jail a harmless citizen like Ms. Tafoya is an outrage," said Citizens for a Safer Denver spokesman Mason Tvert. "This type of incident is a perfect example for why we need to enact this initiative."
"If police can refrain from citing people after they leave our Mayor's bar a little 'Hicken-loopy' -- public intoxication is, in fact, illegal -- there is no reason why they can't refrain from citing adults who are simply possessing a small amount of pot," Tvert said. "We appreciate that our police are out there working to keep us safe, but we believe they could better spend their time arresting drunk drivers and violent offenders than adult marijuana users."
Seattle voters approved a similar "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative in 2003, and the number of marijuana arrests and prosecutions have dramatically decreased in the city without any negative fallout. The measure there was supported by multiple members of the city council and the state legislature, and those city officials who opposed the measure have since recognized its implementation as safe and effective.
Denver voters approved Initiative 100 in 2005, calling for the removal of all penalties for private adult marijuana possession in the city. Since then, arrests for such behavior have increased in Denver, and there were more marijuana arrests in the city in 2006 (the year following the initiative) than ever before.
WHEN: Thursday, May 31, noon (12 p.m.). Ms. Tafoya's arraignment, at which she will be pleading "not guilty," is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.
WHERE: In front of the Denver City-County Building, 1437 Bannock Street. Ms. Tafoya will be appearing in the general municipal courtroom in the Denver City & County Building.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Petition drive to make marijuana possession Denver's lowest law enforcement priority
Citizens for a Safer Denver is holding a press conference later this week to kick off a new petition drive. The proposed initiative would make adult marijuana possession Denver's lowest law enforcement priority. Their press release is excerpted below: