Marijuana: Is Denver adding charges to keep minor pot cases alive after Amendment 64?
After the passage of Amendment 64, we reported that Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey had called for a review of all pending pot cases that would be legal under the measure, with a bias toward dropping those unaccompanied by additional charges. Now, however, an attorney says a client accused of minor possession has been hit with a new count -- a move he sees as contradicting this policy and wasting resources.
The attorney spoke to us anonymously and asked that we refer to the incident in broad terms for fear that speaking out might negatively impact his client. So, generally speaking, here's what happened.
Several months back, the lawyer says, an adult was cited in Denver for minor possession of marijuana (he's said to have had less than a gram on his person), as well as possession of paraphernalia (a pipe). Because there were no other charges, the attorney and his client assumed the matter would be set aside, since neither of these actions will be against the law once Amendment 64 is signed by Governor John Hickenlooper on or before the first week of January.
Before long, prosecutors did indeed decide not to pursue these two counts. But because the individual was arrested while smoking in public, a new charge for this offense was added.
The attorney acknowledges that smoking marijuana in public will remain against the law even after Amendment 64 is signed. Indeed, the ACLU of Boulder's Judd Golden highlighted this particular issue in speaking about confusion among the public about what exactly A64 does.
"The public needs to know that Amendment 64 didn't legalize all marijuana-related activities -- and if someone is publicly consuming marijuana, that's still an offense," Golden told us last month. "Now, whether a charge of that nature would have much chance of being successfully prosecuted is another matter. It's hard to know if the public would appreciate the distinction between having a joint in your pocket or a lit joint in your hand, and I'd be surprised if convictions could be gotten very easily in the absence of aggravating circumstances. But even after Amendment 64 is signed, smoking marijuana in public will still be against the law in the same way that you can have a beer in your pocket but not drink it on the street corner."
Even so, the attorney referred to above sees the introduction of a smoking-in-public charge, for which his client was not cited at the time, as violating the spirit of the Denver DA's office announcement.
How does the DA's office respond?
Continue for more about an added charge in a minor marijuana possession case.