Rant & Rave: "Sniff-Test" Ordinance and Jon Koenigsberg

October 25 2013, 2:45 PM

Rant: This Is Why People Become Libertarians

In a severely misguided effort to dampen Colorado's new legalized marijuana laws, Denver's city council has recently been debating an ordinance that would ban public possession or consumption of the drug in parks and along the 16th Street Mall. That part makes sense; the rest of it, not so much.

The law, which was drafted by District 7 Councilman Chris Nevitt (who, ironically, has long been one of the council's more open-minded members regarding Amendment 64-related issues), goes way beyond establishing guidelines similar to existing open container regulations on alcohol. The proposal would also repeal the 2007 initiative (which was approved by voters) that lowered the police department's priority level around enforcing marijuana violations; it defines "open" to include the sight or smell of the drug; and it defines "public" so broadly as to include cars or even private property. Mayor Michael Hancock, who opposed Amendment 64, has publicly expressed his support for the measure.

That's right: Should this law pass, if you decide to smoke this supposedly legal product in your own home or yard, and a neighbor sees or smells it and calls the police, you could be looking at a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

My rant in this case is more preventative than pressing, because there are so many things wrong with this idea that at first I thought it must be a joke, as if someone mistook an Onion headline for a real story. Start with the fact that if the city council passes the law, it would be morally (and probably legally) obligated to do the same for cigarettes. After all, cigarette smoke is almost universally loathed among non-smokers, which isn't as true of marijuana smoke and non-users. (It bothers some people, but plenty of others couldn't care less.)

Moreover, the damage secondhand cigarette smoke can cause is well documented, and no such residual health problem has been linked to marijuana. (Studies have shown that a so-called "contact high" may occur among non-users, but only if they're trapped in an unventilated room the size of a jail cell, which strongly suggests that deeper health problems arising from proximity to weed smokers are no problem at all for otherwise fit adults.)

If offensive odors cross the line, where are the laws preventing people from going out in public unbathed or wearing too much perfume? And why does the sense of smell get its own special category? Shouldn't our innocent eyes be protected from having to see objectionable T-shirt slogans? Shouldn't our delicate ears be safe from roaring Harleys or those heavy metal jams my neighbor likes to blast from his stereo? (That said, if anyone would like to ban the blaring of the Taylor Swift or Pitbull catalogs, just show me where to sign.)

Thankfully, our city council still is populated by at least a few people with a modicum of common sense, and this law that would effectively dismantle the legalization that Colorado voters heartily approved may never come to fruition. But the fact that we're wasting time debating a statute that's intuitively unconstitutional and impractical is an example of nanny-state politics at their intrusive worst.

Rave: Jon Koenigsberg's Magical Mobiles Highlight New Art Exhibit

Beginning this week at CORE New Art Space, local artist Jon Koenigsberg will display an array of his gossamer and dreamy mobiles as part of the gallery's latest artist showcase. (Also featured are digital photography from Terri Bell and Jesse Myers.)

Koenigsberg's beautifully arresting mobiles are constructed from delicate pieces of copper that are twisted, folded, and fused into creations that seem too fragile to be so strong. As he explains on his website, "Each element is pushed to the point where it is most unstable and most dynamic—almost to the point of failure. Only when the elements have reached their most unstable point does the artwork take on a sense of wonder—a sense of effortless suspension in space." To be in a roomful of Koenigsberg's work is to have the sensation that you, too, are suspended in midair. 

CORE New Art Space, 900 Santa Fe Drive, October 24-November 10. Artist's reception: Friday, October 25, 6-9 p.m. 

—Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.