The news: A new ordinance passed by the Denver city council on Monday has made it legal to smoke marijuana anywhere on private property. This move represents the latest in a wave of pro-marijuana legislation in cities across several states. Constituents in three Michigan cities joined the growing national trend of decriminalizing weed and voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing city councils of Michigan approved measures to legalize the possession or transfer of less than one ounce of marijuana for adults over 21 on private property.
The decision in Denver specifically came after a reversal of the original city ordinance that would have banned smoking of marijuana on private property if the smoker was in public view. The revised ordinance passed in a 7-6 vote. The final vote will take place next week.
The background: There is widespread public support for the legalization of marijuana in several states. In Michigan, the cities of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Flint, and Ypsilanti passed similar ordinances reforming marijuana legislation last year. Voters in Portland, Maine, also pushed for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Maine State Rep. Diane Russell (D) proposed a bill that would have taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana like alcohol, but the bill failed to pass with a 5-5 vote.
The Denver council has been struggling with the guidelines of the bill for weeks, originally contemplating a version that would have banned smoking marijuana on private property if it could be smelled by the neighbors. The more restrictive version put forth by Denver's Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilman Chris Nevitt was nixed due to concerns over the feasibility of enforcing the restrictions.
"It will lead to people snitching on their neighbors," said Councilwoman Susan Shepard to the Denver Post.
Councilwoman Jeanne Robb introduced the controversial "front-yard" amendment, which was overturned on Monday. Some of the council members changed their standing due to public pressure.
But not everyone on the council supports the new leniency. In an effort to make the bill more restrictive, Councilwoman Debbie Ortega will propose an amendment to prohibit smoking marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school.
"I believe that it is our responsibility to be more restrictive, and then we can come back and look at where we need to make changes," she said.
Sandra Hagen Solin, a member of Smart Colorado, an organization advocating marijuana laws that are safe for children is also disappointed. "We're concerned the vote changed because of concerns around enforceability. … Sadly, it appears that at this point the City Council is siding with the marijuana interests over the community's interests," she said.
The takeaway: Colorado and Michigan cities are just the tip of the marijuana-legalization iceberg. The smart thing for the federal government to do would be to stop wasting resources enforcing marijuana restrictions. They should legalize the drug, regulate it, and tax it.