Monday, February 22, 2010

Fireworks expected at Mayor Hickenlooper's Marijuana Panel Meeting Tomorrow

(Press release from SAFER)

DENVER -- The Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel will meet tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. in the Denver Police Auditorium on the first floor of the Police Administration Building at 1331 Cherokee Street. Prior to the meeting, Colorado voters who support marijuana policy reform will rally at a 3 p.m. news conference being held by Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER) in front of the Denver City and County Building just around the corner at 1437 Bannock Street.

At the news conference, SAFER will release statistics showing a dramatic increase in arrests for marijuana possession in Denver in 2009. It will also respond to the prepared statement from Mayor John Hickenlooper's office, which defends the appointment of anti-marijuana crusader Lt. Ernie Martinez to the Panel. Lt. Martinez came under fire last week after SAFER uncovered an official letter from him, in which he compares supporters of marijuana legalization to "a cancer eat[ing] away at society's resolve and moral fiber." More than 650 people joined SAFER in communicating to Mayor Hickenlooper that he should replace Lt. Martinez on the Panel and stop obstructing progress on marijuana policy reform.

"The panel is legally charged with making marijuana possession the city's lowest priority, yet Mayor Hickenlooper appointed an anti-marijuana extremist who wants to keep it a high priority," said panel member and SAFER Executive Director Mason Tvert. "That's on par with appointing Tom Tancredo to the Latino Commission, and we hope it is not a sign of things to come should the mayor become our next governor.

"Polls show two-thirds of Denver voters and half of Colorado voters want to make marijuana legal and start treating it like alcohol," Tvert said. "If Hickenlooper expects these people to send him to the Colorado Governor's Mansion, he needs to stop stonewalling on this issue and demonstrate he's in tune with the voters on it."

In 2005, Denver became the first city in the nation to vote to remove all penalties for adult marijuana possession at the city level. In 2007, a strong majority approved a new city ordinance designating adult marijuana possession the city's lowest law enforcement priority, and calling on the mayor to establish a city panel that would implement such a policy to "the greatest extent possible."

The prepared statement from the mayor's office said the role of the panel is "to determine what this ordinance means," and that, "Police officers and recreational users of marijuana may, understandably, have very different perspectives on the phrases 'lowest law enforcement priority' and 'greatest extent possible.'"

"The panel's purpose is not to determine what the ordinance means or define concepts like 'lowest' and 'greatest'," Tvert said. "The purpose of the panel is to do everything in it's power to make adult marijuana possession something police treat as a lower infraction than jaywalking or going 7 MPH over the speed limit.

"The solution is simple -- police need to stop issuing citations and prosecutors need to stop bringing charges, both of which are entirely possible as demonstrated by the City of Seattle, where voters adopted a virtually identical ordinance and city officials actually listened."


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