By Kevin Mahmalji, NORML Outreach Coordinator
As Colorado approaches its fourth year of legal marijuana, consumers around the state are still struggling with the issue of acceptance. With local governments passing restrictive laws aimed at preventing the public consumption and/or display of marijuana, marijuana consumers are being forced to enjoy their legally purchased products behind closed doors. Take Denver for example. In 2013, City Council members passed an ordinance that established fines of up to $999 for those who are caught smoking in a public space. This left in state consumers with no where to consume their marijuana other than a private residence, and left out-of-state consumers with no legal place to consume at all.
After the new law was put into place, Denver police officers issued more than 650 tickets within the first year, compared to just over 117 for the previous year. This massive increase of 461 percent in citations speaks volumes to the obvious need for a more thoughtful approach. It just doesn't make sense to provide a legal avenue for adults to purchase marijuana while simultaneously applying restrictions that severely limit the act of consuming it. It's fairly simple, marijuana consumers deserve similar rights that our society typically affords to someone who enjoys a glass of wine at a local wine bar after an exhausting day.
Hopefully this situation will soon change. Last week Denver NORML filed the Responsible Use initiative with the city of Denver. If passed by voters this November, it would legalize the establishment of private marijuana clubs for adults 21 and up. Passage of this ordinance would be a historic first step in moving towards the ultimate goal of normalizing the consumption of marijuana in our country. The initiative would provide responsible adults a legally defined space where marijuana could be consumed and shared with other like-minded adults --- a simple, yet necessary accommodation for states that have passed some form of legalization. It's time for marijuana consumers to embrace the idea that just like any other consumer focused industry, we have rights.
We have our work ahead of us: gathering signatures, voter outreach and coalition building will be our top priorities over the next few weeks. Even in a progressive city such as Denver, where marijuana is fairly popular, we must work to earn the support non-consumers to ensure a victory on this issue. I believe we can accomplish this by offering a pragmatic initiative that will focus on the basics. There are plenty of places to grab a drink or a quick bite to eat, but we as marijuana consumers have no where to legally consume marijuana other than the privacy of someone's home. If we focus on what is truly needed, I believe we can increase our chances of being successful this November.
To learn more about the Responsible Use Initiative or to get involved, please visit the campaign's website by clicking, here!