Thanks to NORML, Coloradans may be able to smoke weed in public as early as 2017

Thanks to NORML, Coloradans may be able to smoke weed in public as early as 2017

VicesJanuary 26, 2016 By Isabelle Kohn

As you well know by now, smoking weed in public is illegal.

Sure, you can buy it in public. You can possess it in public. You can fondle the living shit out of it in your pocket while nervously scampering off to a private underground missile silo where it's safe to smoke ... you just can't consume it anywhere, other than indoors on your own private property.

For a state that's worked so hard to legalize marijuana and to both maintain and regulate that legality, this is kind of dumb. Smoking weed shouldn't be a public free-for-all (thought that would be nice), but Coloradans should be allowed at least some degree of freedom when it comes to public consumption. Otherwise, it's not truly a legal substance.

Good thing the Denver Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Denver NORML) has recognized this and is putting up a fight. It's currently in the process of filing an initiative to put a limited social use of marijuana bill on the ballot in Denver in 2016. Ideally, the initiative would bring Denver closer to the goal of treating weed consumption like alcohol.

If the measure makes it onto the ballot, several wondrous things could happen. For one, less stringent public consumption laws may pave the way for communal smoking spaces like marijuana clubs, something Denver sorely needs, but has rarely allowed. It could also make it possible for you to exercise your right to blaze at public events like fairs and festivals; one doesn't have to look too far back in time to remember when last year's Pot Pavilion at the Denver County fair was canceled due to problems with public consumption regulation. And perhaps most relevant, it could essentially make it so you can sit on the front porch and light up without 14 Blackhawk helicopters converging on your law-breaking face.

That last part is no joke. Since weed's legalization in 2014, Denver police have been going nuts handing out public consumption tickets to anyone who so much as inhales in the light of day. In 2014 alone, police wrote 668 tickets for public blazing, compared to just 117 for the same period the year before, a 471 percent increase. Damn ... they just overshot that 420 mark.

Public consumption is such a hot issue that it was also considered for the 2015 ballot last year, but it was withdrawn by proponents after the proposed bill was deemed insufficient. NORML hopes to pick up where that bill left off.

“We greatly appreciate the previous attempt to bring this issue to Denver voters, but we want to get this done,” said Jordan Person, executive director of Denver NORML in a press release. “The need is obvious as residents and visitors continue to have no legal place other than private homes to enjoy a legal product with like-minded adults."

Thankfully, with the recent encouragement of Mayor Michael Hancock and others, the issue continues to gain traction.

Since its founding in 1970, NORML has been the leading voice for marijuana consumers, and for the end of prohibition that treats otherwise law-abiding marijuana smokers like criminals. “We are coming from the perspective of the consumer and not as industry business owners or representatives,” Person said, “but of course we will work with a broad-based coalition of consumers, industry groups and business to gather the needed signatures and to ensure passage.”

Currently, the public consumption initiative is being finalized by NORML before submission to the city for review, but if all goes well, residents of Colorado should be able to sign a petition and vote on the issue later this year. Until then, please continue to hide your legal weed use from family and friends by smoking in a closet, covered in blankets and Febreeze with the lights out in silence. Thaaaanks.