It’s Official: Denver Marijuana Initiative Signatures OK’d

A proposal to make marijuana the lowest enforcement priority in Denver has leaped over its first major hurdle.

Proponents submitted approximately 10,500 petition signatures in June, more than double the number needed to put the initiative up for a vote. Since then, the signatures have been verified by local officials and campaigning for the proposal may begin soon.From the proponents, Citizens for a Safer Denver, a press statement:

The initiative will be transmitted to the Denver City Council on Tuesday, where it will be scheduled for a committee hearing and then a hearing before the entire council. The Council will have the option of enacting the proposed ordinance or placing it on the Nov. 2007 ballot to be considered by Denver voters.

“We are excited to see this measure move forward to be considered by the Denver City Council, and clearly so are thousands of Denver voters,” said Citizens for a Safer Denver spokesman Mason Tvert.

Other cities around the country have passed similar “lowest law enforcement priority” initiatives, including Seattle (where the measure has since been hailed as a success by both proponents and opponents); Missoula, Mont.; and a number of California cities, including Oakland, San Franciscso, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, and West Hollywood. Santa Barbara is the only city in which officials challenged the legality of such an initiative, and this month a California Superior Court ruled that the measure was in fact legal and must be implemented.

The Denver City Council will not likely enact the ordinance, and if that is the case, the measure will go to metro voters–the same voters that approved the legalization of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 years and older by 54 percent in 2005. A similar state amendment failed in 2006.

Rumors had circulated that local officials may challenge the proposal in court, based on whether or not voters could  legally change such procedures in the Denver Police Department. There were also problems with the city’s new election apparatus, which transferred the duties form the defunct Denver Election Commission to the City Clerk’s Office.

But despite the hurdles and looking at the city’s voting history, Denver looks likely to go a step further on the path to marijuana legalization.

Correction: The initiative is not officially on the ballot, technically.

Erin Rosa was born in Spain and raised in Colorado Springs. She is a freelance writer currently living in Denver. Rosa's work has been featured in a variety of news outlets including the Huffington Post, Democracy Now!, and the Rocky Mountain Chronicle, an alternative-weekly in Northern Colorado where she worked as a columnist covering the state legislature. Rosa has received awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for her reporting on lobbying and woman's health issues. She was also tapped with a rare honorable mention award by the Newspaper Guild-CWA's David S. Barr Award in 2008--only the second such honor conferred in its nine-year history--for her investigative series covering the federal government's Supermax prison in the state. Rosa covers the labor community, corrections, immigration and government transparency matters. She can be reached at erosa@www.coloradoindependent.com.

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