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City of Denver Legalizes Marijuana! (11/3/05)

    Openly arguing that pot is a lesser evil than alcohol or tobacco, pro-legalization advocates in the city of Denver, Colorado have succeeded in passing a marijuana legalization bill (by a vote of 54% in favor.) Under the new law, people 21 years and older can legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana without fear or arrest, seizure, or even a ticket.

      Or can they? Although the city law declares marijuana legal for adults in small quantities, the Colorado state laws have not changed, and still apply to residents of the city. This places the city police in the interesting position of having to choose whether to honor the State laws or the popularly passed local law. Since state law trumps city laws, smokers in the mile-high city are technically still not truly safe from prosecution. Yet, if police do enforce the state anti-drug laws when the voters have made their opposition so clearly known, it seems destined to create a great deal of hostility between the police force and the city's residents as well as pressure on politicians to carry out the will of the voters.

      As such, the Denver law sets the stage for a larger and very visible conflict with the state's anti-marijuana laws.  If local legalization advocates have not entirely won yet, they have certainly gained a great deal of additional leverage by having the voters clearly behind them.

Associated Press story.