Tickets issued for public marijuana use in Denver are up 471% from last year, according to data pulled by Colorado Public Radio.
Apparently, much like New York cannabis users confused by their city’s new policy on possession, people in Colorado don’t quite grasp the intricacies of legalization. The sale and possession of marijuana is legal in the state, however public consumption is still illegal and a citable offense.
Denver police have issued 668 tickets for public use so far this year, compared to 117 tickets for the same timeframe last year. While it is not surprising that public consumption would increase when pot became readily available, it’s a little shocking that the number of tickets issued would increase that much.
One contributing factor could be that police have been encouraged to be stricter and write more tickets for public consumption since legalization to keep the city from being constantly covered in a cannabis haze. A more skeptical theory is that police are looking for a new way to intimidate cannabis users and keep the war on drugs alive since losing the ability to write minor possession charges.
One possible solution to Denver's public use problem would be for the city to allow smoking clubs to exist. As of now, the only place to legally consume cannabis in Denver is in a private residence or a (rarely found) smoking-friendly hotel room. Many other cities in Colorado generally look the other way when it comes to smoking clubs or just outright allow them, but Denver has taken a hard stance against them.
Colorado marijuana attorney Rob Corry told Colorado Public Radio, “We don’t have the bar/club side. Denver is going to continue to see public consumption of it, that will be inevitable, until Denver allows people a place to consume it.”
The Denver Police Department responded saying that writing tickets for public consumption of marijuana is just part of the job, much like issuing tickets for public consumption of alcohol. The difference is that Denver has hundreds of bars, but not a single place to legally enjoy legal weed.