By Jan Wondra
The Feb. 19, meeting of the Cherry Hills Village City Council addressed the legal ramifications of Colorado’s Amendment 64, which legalized the possession, transportation and consumption of less than an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 years and older. Council Bill 4, concerning personal use of marijuana, focused on the aspect of possession. It passed unanimously on first read, on a motion by Mayor Pro Tem Russell Steward, with a second by Councilman Scott Roswell. The city is leaving it up to the Colorado state House to define issues like “what is too high to drive?”
In quiet contrast to some of its neighboring municipalities, Cherry Hills Village is taking a subdued approach to interpreting the law. Like many Colorado municipalities, the city is dealing with the three aspects of the state amendment in three separate amendments: retail sales, possession of plants and the personal possession of less than an ounce of marijuana or the paraphernalia to smoke. The ordinance has already banned retail sales in Cherry Hills Village. Council Bill 4 defines what it means to be in possession of marijuana or paraphernalia and prohibits the use or sale of any amount in a public area or building owned or controlled by the city.
In proposing changes to its municipal code regarding possession, the city has looked to its ordinances regarding alcohol and decency.
“The words ‘openly and publicly’ are important here,” said Mayor Doug Tisdale. “I compared this to our decency clause.”
Clarity is needed, said Police Chief Michelle Tovrea, so officers know how to respond to calls. Although Village lots tend to be large and often secluded, not every neighborhood, or every front yard, is private.
“What do we do if a neighbor calls and says, ‘I can see my neighbor smoking pot on his front porch and I don’t like it?’” Tovrea said.
“For instance, we could add the phrase ‘in a place open to the public view,’” said Mayor Tisdale.
The mayor pointed out that while backyards tend to be very private in the Village, front yards or porches may be visible, but not accessible.
City Council members expressed support for matching the language of existing ordinances prohibiting other substance usage.
“‘In the public arena’ definition,” said Councilman Mark Griffin, “is this in lock step with our policy on alcohol consumption?”
Tisdale, noting that the wording matches the city’s handling of alcohol consumption, brought up the issue of marijuana clubs, which is still not specifically addressed.
“For instance, could Cherry Hills Country Club or others create a private club or a club within a club?” asked Tisdale.
In contrast to Greenwood Village, Cherry Hills has taken no strong position regarding the transportation of marijuana. In fact, the subject is specifically excluded from the bill.