The latest version of Denver’s rules for marijuana consumption eliminates the widely derided “smell test,” which would have made pot smoking illegal when other people can smell it, even if you do it on your own property. It also omits a ban on mere possession in parks, which Councilwoman Susan Shepherd worried would deter marijuana consumers from walking and biking. And although it still covers marijuana consumption “in any outdoor location” where it is “clearly observable from a public place,” it exempts consumption on “private residential property” by owners, tenants, or guests. But The Denver Post reports that at least six out of 13 city council members still want to ban marijuana consumption in front yards, and there may yet be a seventh vote:
Charlie Brown, a swing vote, said he is conflicted. He has been a staunch property-rights proponent but understands the problem [Councilwoman Jeanne] Robb is trying to resolve.
“I don’t want to see a bunch of pot parties on front yards,” he said. “The city’s image is at stake. I’m torn between [that concern and] my stance that a man’s front yard is his castle.”
Mason Tvert, who co-managed the campaign for marijuana legalization in Colorado, tells Westword that Robb’s proposed amendment is approved, he could end up with no place to legally smoke pot:
They are still trying to prohibit the use of marijuana by adults on private property. It’s currently legal for adults to consume alcohol or smoke cigarettes on their porches or balconies, so we fail to understand why it should be illegal to use a far less harmful substance there….
I don’t have a private backyard; the backyard is a common area. And if my building were to decide people can’t use marijuana inside their units, for whatever reason, I wouldn’t have anywhere I could legally use marijuana as an adult.
Aspen recently approved marijuana regulations that do not restrict consumption on private property. According to The Aspen Times, that means “it is OK for people to smoke in the comfort of their own yards, fenced or not, as well as their balconies, rooftops and patios.” How come? “At this point,” the Times says, “the city doesn’t believe the pot users, whether locals or visitors, will get out of hand.”
Update: On Monday night the Denver City Council gave initial approval to a bill that includes Robb’s amendment, which prohibits marijuana consumption “in any outdoor location on private residential property” where it is “clearly observable from a public street, highway or sidewalk.” Brown voted against the amendment, saying, “I can’t support it. I believe in individual private property rights.” It nevertheless got the requisite seven votes. Another vote is scheduled for next Monday.
Jacob Sullum is a syndicated columnist and senior editor at Reason magazine, where a version of this piece originally appeared.