Marijuana: Is Denver adding charges to keep minor pot cases alive after Amendment 64?
As you'll recall, DA Morrissey opposed Amendment 64, appearing at an October press event sponsored by Smart Colorado, the leading No on 64 organization, in the company of Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, Broomfield Chief of Police Thomas Deland and Vicki Ferrari, boardmember of the Colorado Drug Investigators Association (and former American Gladiators contestant). Afterward, Smart Colorado released the following quote from Morrissey:
Do these opinions imply that Morrissey is reticent to dismiss minor marijuana cases despite the post-election policy announcement? Denver DA's office spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough rejects that theory.
"Amendment 64 would amend our overburdened Colorado Constitution and cause endless litigation. Amendment 64 will cost Colorado taxpayers money because of this litigation, and because it's a constitutional amendment it can't be fixed by the legislature. Drug policy does not belong in the Constitution."
"There's not necessarily a policy or practice to do that in every case," she says. "Every case will be decided based on its own facts."
Kimbrough notes that the DA's office doesn't directly prosecute such cases. "The City Attorney's Office handles lower-level petty offenses under a longstanding agreement with our office. The city attorneys are specially deputized under that agreement to prosecute offenses that are still violations of the state statute, as opposed to a city municipal offense."
With that in mind, she continues, "Mitch directed the City Attorney's Office to look at the facts of these cases" -- approximately seventy of them -- "and consider the charges" that would be legal under Amendment 64. "And if there were other charges or other circumstances, the City Attorney would consider dismissal."
In other words, "the city attorney would look at dismissing the cases where possession of less than an ounce by an adult would be the only charge. But it would not necessarily apply to other charges, such as public consumption. And we really wanted to get the word out that public consumption is still against the law."
Could this goal explain why the new charge was added?
"It's not uncommon to amend charges during different parts of the process to more accurately reflect the actual event," Kimbrough replies. "It would not be uncommon to have reviewed that case and seen that the possession charge and the paraphernalia charge were no longer appropriate, but a public consumption charge might be appropriate."
The attorney doesn't buy this explanation.
"If there was a good reason for that charge, which in my client's case is debatable, it would have been made originally," he says. "So why are they spending resources and finding ways to add charges? To me, it suggests that they are willing to spend prosecution dollars even if someone is only charged with less than an ounce. And that's unfortunate."
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Denver DA Mitch Morrissey joins law enforcers denouncing Amendment 64."