Mason Tvert wants Denver's pot laws to be more like Seattle's

Categories: Marijuana

mason tvert photograph.jpg
Maybe Mason should follow our former restaurant critic Jason Sheehan to Seattle -- where the grub is tasty and the weed is slightly more legal.
Forget California dreamin'. These days Mason Tvert, the media-savvy founder of SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation), has been dreaming of Washington State -- where the good city of Seattle just rolled out a citywide marijuana measure that Tvert's been pushing Denver to implement for years.

In a letter recently sent to members of the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel -- a mayor-appointed body of which Tvert is a member -- and other city officials, Tvert made note of how Pete Holmes, Seattle's new city attorney has announced he's dismissing all marijuana-possession cases that had been underway in the city and will no longer file charges for marijuana possession unless there are "out of the ordinary circumstances." The move is a response to a referendum Seattle voters passed in 2003 that made marijuana the lowest priority for local law enforcement.

For a marijuana-reform advocate like Tvert, the development's got to be good news from a national perspective -- but personally, it's gotta sting. Tvert's been pushing Denver's city attorney's office to make just this sort of announcement for years in response to the fact that Denver voters have also voted to make marijuana the lowest law-enforcement priority, as well as to remove all penalties for private adult marijuana possession. So far, however, Denver's city attorney has refused to do so even though in 2008 the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel called on it to refrain from filing charges for marijuana possession "absent compelling reasons articulated... in open court."

"If Seattle's city attorney can establish a formal policy of no longer filing marijuana possession charges despite Washington's state possession law, why is it that Denver cannot do so, according to Denver city officials?" Tvert asks in his letter. "More specifically, can the Denver City Attorney's Office provide any substantial reasoning for not enacting such a policy in light of the measures approved by Denver voters and the aforementioned recommendation of the Panel? Would the City of Denver actually face any state sanction or penalty if the City Attorney's Office adopted a policy similar to that of the Seattle City Attorney's Office?"

So far, Tvert hasn't received an answer to his questions -- but knowing his tenacity, he won't stop until he does.

Check out Tvert's full letter below.

Dear Members of the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel (cc: Denver Mayor's Office, Denver City Council, and Denver Media Members):

I encourage you to review the article below that appeared in the Seattle Times this weekend regarding a development in the City of Seattle's implementation of the voter-approved "lowest law enforcement priority" measure. In light of the situation in Denver, where a virtually identical measure has been adopted, this news raises significant questions I believe the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel, city officials, and the media should address.

Essentially, the Seattle city attorney has made it clear he will conform with the "lowest priority" ordinance by no longer filing charges for marijuana possession
"[u]nless there are 'out of the ordinary circumstances.'" Such a policy is very similar to the recommendation approved by the Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel on May 28, 2008, which calls on the Denver City Attorney's Office to refrain from filing charges for marijuana possession "absent compelling reasons articulated... in open court." As you might recall, the Panel was appointed by Mayor John Hickenlooper to implement the "lowest priority" ordinance approved by voters in 2007, to the "greatest extent possible." Denver voters also approved an amendment to the city's marijuana possession ordinance in 2005, removing all penalties for private adult marijuana possession.

I plan to ask the following important questions at the upcoming meeting of the Panel, and I hope city officials and members of the media will ask them, as well:

If Seattle's city attorney can establish a formal policy of no longer filing marijuana possession charges despite Washington's state possession law, why is it that Denver cannot do so, according to Denver city officials? More specifically, can the Denver City Attorney's Office provide any substantial reasoning for not enacting such a policy in light of the measures approved by Denver voters and the aforementioned recommendation of the Panel? Would the City of Denver actually face any state sanction or penalty if the City Attorney's Office adopted a policy similar to that of the Seattle City Attorney's Office?

I welcome answers and/or comments from Vincent DiCroce, the Panel's representative from the Denver City Attorney's Office, or answers, comments, or further questions from any other members of the Panel, our city officials, or the media.

I look forward to the next meeting of the Panel on February 23, 2010, 3:30 p.m., at the Denver City-County Building.

Sincerely,

Mason Tvert
Member, Denver Marijuana Policy Review Panel

Executive Director
SAFER (Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation)


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