Denver Marijuana Bust Headed To Court

Denver Marijuana Bust Headed To Court
Posted by CN Staff on December 14, 2005 at 07:44:20 PT
By Daniel Boniface 
Source: Boulder Weekly
Colorado -- The people spoke, but law enforcement didn't listen. On Nov. 17, a day after Denver's Alcohol/Marijuana Equalization Initiative 100 went into effect—establishing a city ordinance that made the possession of less than one ounce of pot legal for people over the age of 21—Denver police made their first post I-100 pot bust under state law. Eric Footer, a 39-year-old real estate consultant, was pulled over by city police and cited under state law for possessing less than an ounce of cannabis.
Footer allowed the cops to search his car, even though he knew he had a small amount of marijuana in his possession because he thought Denver voters had made it legal to possess a small amount.While most people would simply pay the fine, Footer contacted Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the organization that got the initiative on the ballot to begin with, and asked them for help in fighting the charges. "He doesn't want to have to see anyone else go through this, given that it's such a waste of time and money," says Mason Tvert, director of SAFER. His court date is set for Jan. 18, and the ensuing legal battle could be the landmark case for I-100. While Footer's legal team prepares for court, reefer advocates are upset with the attitude of local lawmakers and law enforcement and feel they're ignoring the will of the people. The pot proponents feel the Denver City Council should be held responsible, and point to a similar marijuana initiative that passed in Seattle two years ago that has been deemed a success, even by those who originally opposed it. Seeing GreenMarijuana advocates say it's important to fight Footer's case because the will of voters is not being upheld. Tvert is upset that local lawmakers and law enforcement are being so audacious, ignoring and discounting it the way they have. In a recent article, John W. Burbach, lieutenant commander of the Denver Police Department, told the Boulder Weekly he thought Denver voters didn't even know what they were voting on. Two years ago, a similar initiative passed in Seattle, reducing personal use marijuana busts to the lowest possible police priority, even lower than jaywalking. While law enforcement didn't like that initiative either, at least one member of the Seattle City Council did, and he supported it and helped make sure it was instituted properly, sitting on an oversight board created by initiative supporters. "I think it's a tremendous waste of time to have officers arresting people for marijuana usage, particularly because it's a well-ranking recreational drug," says Nick Licata, Seattle city councilman. "We have far more serious problems in the city to use our police for. There are major heroin addicts out there, major meth addicts and cocaine addicts who need treatment, who unfortunately are too often involved in petty crimes and often property crimes, and so our attention must be more focused on fighting crime and dealing with harm reduction in these more serious drug problems. Marijuana is not a problem, at least to the extent that these others are." Two years after passing the voter-initiated proposal, Seattle has seen great success. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, minor marijuana offenses dropped from 500 in 1994 to only 59 in 2004. To the surprise of those who opposed the initiative, there has been no rash of crimes and no evidence of increased pot smoking since the initiative passed, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer said. But where Seattle had at least one lawmaker on its side, Denver voters seem to have been left high and dry. The Denver City Council was widely reported to dislike the initiative from the start. District 6 City Councilman Charlie Brown called the proposal a "goofy initiative," and Jeanne Robb, Capitol Hill's District 10 city councilwoman claimed smoking three marijuana joints was equal to smoking three packs of cigarettes a day, and also said marijuana kills brain cells. According to sources at the subcommittee meeting, Robb was merely repeating things she'd heard there. "If you look at the polling numbers of who voted favorably on I-100, Capitol Hill is the home base of support for marijuana reform, and Jeanne Robb was against this from the beginning and made ridiculous statements about marijuana being a gateway drug and sort of all these ideas that have been debunked time and time again," says Brian Vicente, a lawyer on Footer's legal team and director of Sensible Colorado, a drug-reform advocacy group. "I think people like that should be held accountable by their voters who obviously feel strongly about this issue." Unfortunately for Robb and Brown, their districts disagreed with them at election time. Brown's District 6 voted 4,200 to 3,330 in favor of the initiative, carrying more than 55 percent. Robb's District 10 voted 5,820 to 2,572 in favor of the proposal, a whopping 69 percent approval—the most for any district. By comparison, Robb herself only managed to garner 5,261 votes when she won her city council seat in 2003, only 47 percent of the votes. That came in an election that had a turnout of 10,986 in her district, as opposed to the 8,392 this year. "She did not look into this issue. She did not ask questions," says Tvert. "She was not interested in what we had to say, despite the fact that we informed her that most of her constituents signed this petition to put this on the ballot, and I would not be surprised, although I'm not going to say this is going to happen, but if this was something that was brought to the public's attention the next time she tries to get re-elected." Seattle's Licata feels the Denver City Council should be doing more for their voters. "I think they should try to adhere to the spirit of the initiative that passed," Licata says. Robb and Brown did not return phone calls as of press time. Legal EaglesScoring a victory in the Footer case is extremely important for both sides in order to set the legal precedent for the cases likely to follow. "We hope to ultimately win his case and have it dismissed and to send a real message to the Denver police and the Denver DAs," says Vicente. "They need to respect the will of the Denver voters and start charging people under the city code, as opposed to the state law because they have that option right now of choosing which law to charge people under." Both Tvert and Vicente maintain that Denver police could simply choose not to cite people, or barring that, the district attorney could choose not to prosecute offenders. "They get to choose who they prosecute and under what laws," says Tvert. "So, even if a person is cited, the prosecutor has the right to say, 'Well, Denver has a law saying this, so we're dropping the case.' The idea being if that does happen, the police will stop citing people to cut down on wasteful citations." Footer's legal team has presented three possible defenses they might argue, all of which have been maligned by the prosecution and the mainstream press. One possible approach is the Mistake of Law defense. Since I-100 was a widely publicized new law, they could argue that Footer made a reasonable mistake, assuming an initiative voted in by the people was actually a law. Another possible defense could be that Denver is a home rule city and has the right to institute its own laws. However, lawmakers say laws can only be strengthened, not weakened, as they say the case is here. But, Vicente sees it as an issue of safety. "Home rule municipalities such as Denver traditionally have been given a lot of deference in terms of governing safety issues," Vicente says. "And ultimately we feel the people of Denver, the 57,000 people that voted in favor of this law, were ultimately voting as sort of a backlash against the culture of alcohol and all the problems it causes." Drawing on the juxtaposition of alcohol and marijuana is the last of the three possible defenses, called a "choice of evils" defense. Win or lose, Vicente and Tvert say they will continue to fight for reform to see that the will of the voters is upheld, and one of the first ways they may go about it could be to push to amend the citations that Denver police use. Currently, only the state law appears on the ticket, and marijuana advocates say police cite state law only as a matter of convenience since police have to write out the city citation by hand. "We'd like to see an additional box added which would be a warning," Tvert says. "Which means if people are stopped and they have less than an ounce of marijuana and they're over 21 years old, the police would say to them, 'Here's the deal. We understand the voters passed this and therefore, you're not going to be cited. But you should understand there is a state law and because there's a state law we're just going to give you a warning,' and that would be it." Tvert says if this were to happen, there would be a record of warnings, and if someone were to leave Denver, it would show they were aware that pot was illegal elsewhere in the state. The Denver police and city attorney's office did not respond to inquiries as of press time. Mayor Hickenlooper would not comment on ongoing litigation. Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)Author: Daniel Boniface Published: December 8 - December 15, 2005 Copyright: 2005 Boulder WeeklyContact: letters Website: Articles & Web Site:Safer Choice I-75 - The Stranger Says He'll Fight Marijuana Bust Fallout from Seattle's Pot Initiative Time Has Come To Legalize Marijuana
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Comment #12 posted by The GCW on December 16, 2005 at 17:49:42 PT
Letters the week of 12/15/05 Parasites (Re: "Denver marijuana bust headed to court," news, Dec. 8.) There's a good reason Denver police are enforcing the state marijuana prohibition when they could follow the Denver ballot initiative permitting pot. The "justice" system is as totally dependent on crime as the military/industrial complex is on war. Just as the complex, acting through its Bush-league front men, have replaced communism with terrorism as the bogeyman du siecle, cops, prosecutors, judges, etc., will do anything to keep crime (and "crime") up to keep their jobs and status. How else to explain why the wealthy U.S. has the most prisoners in the world with 2.2 million, up from 200,000 in the late '60s? How else to explain the family-destroying and homelessness-inducing effects of Family Protective Services and spousal-abuse laws? Why is alcohol the drug of choice of most cops, and legal, when it is the most violence-provoking of all drugs, unlike pot which has the opposite effect? Why did the CIA probably start the crack epidemic in the inner cities? Why the violent, abusive standard arrest procedures, slamming even passive people's faces into the pavement, and, in my arrest for entertaining people on the Pearl Street Mall, cuffing me so tightly my wrists bled? As George Bernard Shaw wrote "every profession is a conspiracy against the laity." In the country Bush calls "Murka," this parasitism has become terminal. If you'd like the first principle on which this country was founded —The People are Sovereign—to rule the rulers again, please vote to ratify the National Initiative for Democracy at 
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Comment #11 posted by The GCW on December 15, 2005 at 20:26:11 PT
As usual, Jay Leno had the best line: “Fifty-three percent of the people approve of having marijuana in Denver, how about that? How does that make Bush feel? He's 14 percent behind pot now.”
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Comment #10 posted by John Tyler on December 14, 2005 at 20:45:56 PT
If you don't like a law, change the politicians
Various places are voting to change the laws, but still some politicians, etc. are not listening. If they won’t change their positions, maybe the next vote should be to change the politicians. 
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Comment #9 posted by mayan on December 14, 2005 at 18:00:20 PT
Here, if you don't consent the cops call in the canine unit and the dogs might bark if they're hungry and smell an open bag of cheetos! Might as well make them work for it, though. Never consent! 
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Comment #8 posted by runderwo on December 14, 2005 at 17:34:21 PT
You could carry a micro tape recorder in case of a police stop, so that everything you and the cop says is on tape.
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Comment #7 posted by lombar on December 14, 2005 at 15:23:49 PT
This was his error:
"Footer allowed the cops to search his car, even though he knew he had a small amount of marijuana in his possession because he thought Denver voters had made it legal to possess a small amount."Never allow police to search. Ever. Unless they have a warrant, they can p up a rope and slide down it. Maybe its different in the United States but here you can refuse."May we have permission to search""No""You have something to hide?""No""Then why can't we search?""Aside from the fact you have no legal right, you are wasting my time.""You must be hiding something"At which point they will either search illegally or relent. If they relent, off you go. If they search illegally and find contraband, off YOU go. (of course police can just lie and say you gave permission). No guarantees other than you letting one police officer you won't stand for their BS.-Aside. I just saw a commercial for 'the anti-drug' which they claim is L.O.V.E. Keeping drugs out of the hands of children is love. Incarcerating millions of adults is not. They have no shame.
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Comment #6 posted by global_warming on December 14, 2005 at 15:19:13 PT
GOD BLESS Mason Tvert
And Eric Footer, a 39-year-old real estate consultant, I hope, that his court date which is set for Jan. 18, will mark that place and time when those wannabe jarheads have an awakening, 'we don't like the 'laws against cannabis, we have voted to change those laws, either you become a civilized human being or you will find your close shaved butthead in some prison you never imagined existed.Go Mason, Go Denver, there are so many of us little people who draw strength from your actions, you will find that when the time comes, you will have a strength that is so much more than Denver, you will carry the hopes, dreams and highest aspirations of so many people, whose faces you may never see with your eyes, but your soul will touch those hearts and souls.Thanks Mason and the Good People of Denver.
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Comment #5 posted by The GCW on December 14, 2005 at 14:27:23 PT
Richard Zuckerman,
The governor's election is next year and one person stands out.Great importance to the cannabis movement, in fact.Gary Lindstrom from Summit County, Colorado, has publically spoken against the current marijuana / cannabis laws and now has announced He is running for Governor.I believe He has spoken publically about initiative 100 and in favor if it.-0-He was a 3rd party candidate, but joined the Dems about 3 years ago.0-0It may be wise for cannabis and hemp friendly citizens to help Gary Lindstrom with His election race.Below is a link to another C-news location with comment #25 containing an article He wrote in the local Summit County Newspaper from last June. It help understand why not only Colorado needs Lindstrom, but America needs Lindstrom to help straighten out the cannabis laws.Supremes take on medical marijuana is priceless
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Comment #4 posted by afterburner on December 14, 2005 at 11:50:47 PT
"Since I-100 was a widely publicized new law, they could argue that Footer made a reasonable mistake, assuming an initiative voted in by the people was actually a law."Get a clue: a legally passed initiative *IS* a law!!!
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Comment #3 posted by boballen1313 on December 14, 2005 at 10:15:22 PT:
Remember this fine defence of repressive laws against cannabis use? Well, what's the story now? Denver voters aren't capable of making decisions on their own without the omnipotant wisdom of the city elders. The voters aren't intelligent enough to know what's good for em!! Maybe the city elders think that they are untouched with brain disease when they insert their personal will over the will of a majority of well informed voters. I suggest the elders cut back on the prescription drugs and whiskey saturating their own mental processes and realize they work for the voters. But, who do these folks really work for? That's the more interesting question.
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Comment #2 posted by Richard Zuckerman on December 14, 2005 at 08:28:39 PT:
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Comment #1 posted by mayan on December 14, 2005 at 08:04:19 PT
What Can They Say?
Robb and Brown did not return phone calls as of press time.The Denver police and city attorney's office did not respond to inquiries as of press time. Mayor Hickenlooper would not comment on ongoing litigation. These folks have already made major asses of themselves. Maybe they're hiding under their beds?Time's runnin' out...URGENT! Stop the Patriot Act: the filibuster:
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