Shame On You Denver’s Public Servants Aren’t Serving Anyone When it Comes to Marijuana by DJ Reetz When the citizens of Denver voted almost two-to-one in favor of legalizing marijuana, they may not have counted on the people they had already elected doing everything they could to keep marijuana in the shadows. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of shops open for adult use in the state lie within the city, city officials continue at every opportunity to try and keep marijuana out of the public eye, and mired in stigma. It’s an unfortunate reality that city officials have forced down the throat of a citizenry that seems eager to treat marijuana with the respect it deserves. Several city council representatives, the city’s district attorney, and even mayor Michael Hancock have all shown a surprising ignorance of the realities of marijuana. It can be as simple as an ignorant comment about the dangers of marijuana, or as involved as introducing idiotic legislation into the city council. Some gems to come from the city council have included ordinances fining people for the smell of marijuana, fining them for smoking on their front porch, or even ticketing them if they can be seen by passersby while in their own homes when smoking. Fortunately, none of these made it into law. Recently, however, city officials have kicked up their war on commonsense marijuana regulation by attempting to shut down any event at which marijuana is likely to be used. You may have noticed some of these threats, such as the most recent attempt to prevent the Colorado Symphony from raising much-needed funds via a series of marijuana-themed concerts, or the shutting down of THC’s own Marijuana Madness event. But it’s really nothing new. AJ Hashman knows this all too well. After successfully hosting a medical marijuana “Meet and Greet” for four years without incident – the last two years working in close conjunction with city officials – when adult-use sales began he started to run into problems.
If it seems like the city is attempting to crack down on unlicensed events, well, that’s probably because they refuse to issue licenses for events such as these. “It’s something that needs to be available,” says AJ. “It’s a public safety issue.” But the city has made its opinion on the matter clear: If you want to light up, you better be smoking cigarettes. Several area bars have received threats for simply looking the other way when patrons (whose age has been verified at the door) get stoned in their outdoor smoking area. It’s a threat that many local businesses feel, and it unfortunately means that residents and visitors are without a place to communally enjoy marijuana.
After successfully hosting a medical marijuana “Meet and Greet” for four years without incident... when adult-use sales began he started to run into problems.
The event was flooded with threats from the city, including a letter from the city attorney’s office on behalf of the Department of Excise and Licenses threatening the liquor license of any venue that would have him, and threatening to fine those in attendance for public consumption, even going so far as to fine those responsible with violation of the Clean Indoor Air Act. Uniformed police began showing up to shut down the events, threatening to show up “in force,” he says. But was this because of the rowdy and lawless nature of the events? “Literally every venue I’ve ever worked with has told me it’s the nicest, most polite crowd and it’s a pleasure to work with us,” Hashman says.
When the meet and greet went underground, law enforcement followed. Hashman would try to organize events through Facebook as group hangouts, but found he was being pursued on the social media site at every turn and the police were always aware of the next location. “It’s ridiculous,” he says. “It’s a harassment issue now.” Still, he says these threats weren’t originating with the cops, rather with the mayor himself. “Denver PD doesn’t want anything to do with this,” he says.
42 June 2014
“They know it’s an asshole move.”
Terri Robnett of the Cannabis Patients Alliance has seen her share of this kind of bullshit. As a consistent advocate for patient rights, Teri knows how the city handles marijuana, and how the mayor feels about it. “He is a huge prohibitionist,” she says. “Mayor Hancock is a party boy, but he hates marijuana.” But why does the city have such a problem with it? Mayor Hancock told Colorado Public Radio (in a segment that emphatically demonstrated that the state’s image is not suffering due to legalization) that “Denver and Colorado are not Amsterdam, we will never be Amsterdam.” Clearly, Hancock doesn’t want anyone smoking in a manner that doesn’t reek of shame.
Hancock’s motivations for his ignorant beliefs are his own, but with the clear majority of the city wishing for marijuana to be treated like alcohol he better start thinking about what the electorate actually wants. The same goes for city council members who consistently vote for ass-backward approaches to marijuana; council members such as Jeanne Robb, Debbie Ortega, Jeanne Faatz, Judy Montero, and Charlie Brown. In case you think this is just a one-sided diatribe, I reached out to the mayor’s office as well as the city council members I mentioned above for an explanation as to why they don’t think marijuana should be treated like alcohol. All declined to even give me the time of day. Guess these guys think they don’t have to explain the ignorance behind their actions, but people who act without thought seldom do. Until we can we have government representatives who base their decisions on evidence and facts, rather than the stupid shit their grandmother was duped into thinking, we will have to keep marijuana in the margins. But I for one encourage all our readers to push these boundaries. Treat marijuana the way you feel it should be treated and recognize the threats from the city government as what they are: the braying of prohibitionists trying their hardest to prevent the world from moving forward without them.