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Denver council flips on front porch pot

9:45 PM, Dec 2, 2013   |    comments
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DENVER - It was supposed to be a done deal: No smoking pot on your front porch in Denver.

All that was left was for the Denver city council to take its final vote on a pot use ordinance that included a ban on use pot on private residential property, if it was in plain view of the sidewalk or street.

But just before the final vote, came an amendment.

"Please indulge me folks while we have another groundhog day," Councilwoman Susan Shepherd said.

Shepherd offered an amendment that would strike the front porch ban on pot, worried that it would be a drag on city cops to enforce, "by tangling up our dispatch situation with people snitching on their neighbors."

It wasn't long before it became clear that there were converts to her cause.

"It was a long holiday weekend and I spent a lot of time thinking about that," said Councilwoman Robin Knech, who said she doesn't think people ought to smoke pot in their front yards, but doesn't think it deserves a ban in city law. "I can't in good conscience support an unenforceable law that will be applied to the citizens of Denver based on my personal standards."

"It's setting a false expectation up," said Councilman Albus Brooks as he flipped his vote against the porch ban. "Because we're not going to address this issue. We don't have the resources to do it."

Those who wanted a front porch ban quickly figured out theirs was a losing battle.

"The writing's on the wall," Councilwoman Jeanne Robb said. "I thought we had found the balance last week."

Robb still thinks sparking up in front yards isn't what voters had in mind when they legalized pot.

"The public expects some discretion," Robb said.

It was a sentiment shared by others.

"I do believe [voters] fully expected for the consumption to be private and discreet," Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz said.

But opponents of a porch ban had other concerns.

"Some folks don't have backyards," Councilman Paul Lopez said. "That means they're going inside to smoke. And if they have children inside, they're going to be smoking inside."

By a vote of 7-6, the porch ban got the boot, which ultimately forces another final vote at next week's council meeting on the matter.

The debate was just part of a bill that will ban pot use in public areas like sidewalks and ban use, display, and transfer of pot in public parks and on the 16th Street Mall.

As one of the "aye" votes to scrap the porch ban, Brooks felt it was important to make a point about Denver's pending pot law: Just because you can smoke anywhere on your property, doesn't mean you should be a jerk to your neighbors.

"I hope that we in this city and neighbors can respect each other," Brooks said. "If someone is smoking out and there's a couple of folks and it is impeding on your neighbors yard, I hope you can respect and have a decent conversation."

So neighborly decency appears it will be the standard in Denver when it comes to pot use at private residences.

That is, unless the council has another "groundhog day."

(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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