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The Effect of the Marijuana Vote

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With 84% of the vote now counted, the front page of the Rocky Mountain News marijuana initiative is leading by a 57 to 43% margin. Even if every remaining vote was a “no” vote, it would pass.So, what does it mean? According to Mayor Hickenlooper and the Denver Police Department, not much.But, the initiative requires the City to appoint a commission to study the issue, and the Mayor has promised to do so.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper issued a statement Wednesday saying that he understands the frustration with current marijuana laws and that he will create a community-based panel to review the issues raised by the initiative.”We respect the fact that many voters used this largely symbolic initiative to register frustration with the federal war on drugs,” Hickenlooper said in his statement. “Given that adult possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is already one of the police department’s lowest priorities, it is unclear what substantive impact, if any, the initiative’s passage will make.”

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The initiative doesn’t mean people can’t be busted for possession of pot. Driving under the influence of marijuana remains a crime. As is juvenile consumption. What it means is that the police should not be targeting adults for arrest for personal possession or use of the drug. Denver police chief Gerry Whitman says they don’t do that anyway. So, what did the measure gain? Perhaps a greater awareness that marijuana smoking is not “reefer madness.” The vote may have been just symbolic, but it’s a vote that expresses the belief and will of the people of the city and county of Denver: Police shouldn’t sweat small stuff. In the grand scheme of criminal activity, adult marijuana possession and use is now officially at the bottom of the totem pole. And that’s where it should be.

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