Denver Law Would Make It Illegal To Smoke Pot If Others Can Smell It

Even though legal retail marijuana sales will begin in January in Denver, city officials are doing their best to preemptively rein in pot use with a new proposed law that would, among other restrictions, make it illegal to smoke pot if your neighbors can smell it.

The Denver Post reports that the law [PDF] clarifies that nothing in Amendment 64, the measure approved by Colorado voters in 2012, allows for “consumption that is conducted openly and publicly,” but then goes on to define “openly” as “occurring or existing in a manner that is unconcealed, undisguised, or obvious, and is observable or perceptible through sight or smell to the public or to persons on neighboring properties.” [emphasis ours]

So even if you’re legally smoking marijuana in the privacy of your home, a stray breeze that carries the scent to your neighbor’s property could result in a fine of up to $999 and up to a year behind bars.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock defends the proposed rules, saying, “Your activities should not pervade others’ peace and ability to enjoy… Marijuana is one of those elements that can be quite pervasive and invasive. I shouldn’t have to smell your activities from your backyard.”

But the legal director for Colorado ACLU says this is a “tremendous overreach” that is not in the spirit of the law Colorado voters approved.

“It will inevitably prompt police and community confrontations,” he explains to the Post. “Amendment 64 said to regulate marijuana like alcohol. This is not. No one risks a year in jail for drinking a beer in their fenced backyard.”

Also of concern to the ACLU is the law’s ban on merely possessing — not smoking — less than one ounce of marijuana in a public place like a park or a pedestrian mall: “I cannot believe Amendment 64 allows cities to make it a crime to carry a legal product in your pocket as you walk on a public sidewalk or public right of way.”