from Mason Tvert at SAFER. Also see Westword article here.Prosecutions dropped 21 percent in the year following voters' adoption of "lowest law enforcement priority" law and establishment of city review panel (pictured above)
DENVER -- Prosecutions for private adult marijuana possession plunged more than 21 percent in 2008, reaching the lowest rate since 2005, according to the Denver City Attorney's Office.
Director of Prosecution Vince DiCroce presented the 2008 statistics to the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel at its meeting Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Denver City-County Building. The Denver City Attorney's Office is required to provide the Panel with marijuana possession statistics every six months.
Prosecutions fell from 2,105 in 2007, to 1,658 in 2008, the year following voters' adoption of a city ordinance designating adult possession the city's "lowest law enforcement priority" and Mayor John Hickenlooper's subsequent appointment of the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel. The Panel was established to implement, monitor and report on the new ordinance. In May 2008, it recommended the city halt prosecutions for adult marijuana possession, and in August it called on city police to refrain from citing adults during the Democratic National Convention.
The new trend in marijuana prosecutions is NOT the result of fewer arrests for other offenses, according to DiCroce, who speculated that the number of charges filed for all offenses in Denver likely increased or held steady in 2008.
"Our city punished far fewer adults for marijuana possession this year, yet the sky did not fall," said Mason Tvert, a member of the Panel and the executive director of Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the organization behind the successful marijuana initiative campaign. "Hopefully this is just the beginning of Denver's shift toward a more rational approach to marijuana."
"There are still far too many adults in Denver being needlessly punished simply for using a substance that is far less harmful than alcohol," Tvert said. "It's time to stop these prosecutions altogether and start allowing adults to make the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol, if that's what they prefer."
Cases of Private Adult Marijuana Possession: Jan. 1, 2005 - Jan. 1, 2009
(Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older)
Released by the Denver City Attorney's Office, February 4, 2009
November 2005 -- more than 53 percent of Denver voters approved Initiated Question 100, amending city ordinances to remove ALL penalties for private adult marijuana possession under city ordinances. This was the first time in history that a city had voted to do so.
November 2006 -- approximately 55 percent of Denver voters approved Amendment 44, a statewide ballot initiative that would have removed all penalties for private adult marijuana possession under state statutes. The measure received more than 41 percent of the statewide vote.
November 2007 -- 57 percent of Denver voters approved Initiated Question 100, creating a new city ordinance designating adult marijuana possession the city's "lowest law enforcement priority" and calling for the creation of a city review panel.
December 2007 -- Mayor John Hickenlooper appoints the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel. See below for list of panel members.
May 2008 -- The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel adopts a formal recommendation that the Denver City Attorney's Office no longer prosecute cases of private adult marijuana possession. The Denver City Attorney's Office announces its plans to change its policy so that adults cited for marijuana possession are no longer required to appear in court and can pay a significantly reduced fine by mail -- this has yet to be implemented.
August 2008 -- The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel adopts a formal recommendation that the Denver Police Department refrain from citing, arresting or detaining adults for private marijuana possession during the 2008 Democratic National Convention.
February 2009 -- The Denver City Attorney's Office releases statistics showing that prosecutions for private adult marijuana possession in Denver plunged 21 percent in 2008, and are at the lowest rate since 2005.
Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel
City Council, At-large Denver
Lt. Ernie Martinez, Denver Police Dept., president of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association
Vincent DiCroce, Director of Prosecution,
Attorney's Office Denver City
Phil Cherner, defense attorney and member of the Denver Crime Commission
public defender Denver
Sandy Mullins, executive director,Colorado Criminal Defense Bar
Domestic Violence Coordinating Council Denver
Crystal Noel, substance abuse counselor, Empowerment Program
Mason Tvert, executive director, Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER)
Brian Vicente, defense attorney and executive director of Sensible Colorado