Denver pot-smoking tickets 19 times higher in 2013 than in 2012
Amendment 64 legalized the possession and use of limited amounts of pot for adults 21 and over, but it didn't legalize public consumption of cannabis on streets, sidewalks, parks or any other public place, for that matter.
But apparently that message didn't quite reach Denver and Boulder residents, as public pot consumption tickets have skyrocketed in both cities since Amendment 64 passed.
In Denver, there were a total of eight tickets written for marijuana consumption in 2012, according to records from the Denver Police Department. So far in 2013, 155 tickets have been written, more than nineteen times the number the previous year.
And according to Boulder Police Department records, 113 people were cited for public marijuana use in 2013 in Boulder. That's a huge increase from the 29 tickets written in 2012.
Boulder police Chief Mark Becker told the Boulder Daily Camera, which broke the story, that the increase is due to larger numbers of people smoking in public and not due to police simply ramping up enforcement, despite Boulder enacting a municipal ban on marijuana use as recently as June.
"I don't know if people feel emboldened by the law or don't know that to display or consume marijuana in public is still illegal," he told the paper.
Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett says he's noticed the increase in citations on his end as well, and attributes a large number of those tickets to people who might have known that marijuana consumption wasn't legal but figured the cops wouldn't care about it since the laws were passed. Garnett says he isn't going to have any sympathy for them, or for people who simply don't understand that public marijuana use remains illegal.
"We've made it clear to police departments that we will prosecute consumption cases and distributing to minors, so they're looking for those because they know those are cases we will pursue," said Garnett.
Beckner says his department isn't going to be issuing warnings, either. He says the only way to get the message out is to enforce the laws uniformly.
Public consumption of cannabis in Boulder will get you a $500 fine for the first two times you're caught. A third time could result in 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
One of the 155 people busted in Denver was marijuana attorney Rob Corry, who will head to trial on January 15. Police busted him for allegedly smoking a joint at a Rockies game earlier this year; Corry reportedly berated the cops, arguing that possession was legal and therefore the police had no right to arrest him.