Recent Articles

Recent Comments

« | Main | »

Some take the fifth, others admit – to smoking pot

By Hempology | August 28, 2007

Denver Daily News, CO
27 Aug 2007


At least four Denver City Council members and the mayor have smoked or ingested marijuana, a fact that has pot proponents screaming hypocrisy over the unanimous decision of Council not to support a ballot initiative that would make marijuana the police department’s lowest enforcement priority.

City Council members look at it from very different terms, arguing that the initiative is not about marijuana, but instead about the Council’s right to dictate to the police department what should be their enforcement priorities.  The City Council decided unanimously last week that it does not have the right to tell the police department how to conduct its enforcement.

The proposed ballot initiative is up on final reading tonight before the City Council and a courtesy public hearing on the topic will be held before the Council makes a final decision whether to send the question to voters this November.  There is unanimous consent to let voters decide the question, but not to immediately enact the proposed ordinance into law.

The Admitted Smokers

A recent Denver Daily News investigation determined that Mayor John Hickenlooper, Councilwomen Marcia Johnson, Carla Madison and Jeanne Robb, and Councilman Rick Garcia have all experimented with marijuana at least once in life.

The majority of Council remained silent on the question, with six of the elected officials refusing to comment.

Councilmen Michael Hancock and Paul Lopez said that personal experience kept them away from marijuana, and Councilwoman Jeanne Faatz said she also never tried the drug.

As for the Council members who refused to comment, most either said it was “none of ( the Denver Daily News’s ) business” or joked about having grown up during a time when marijuana was prevalent.

“I’m going to go on record saying I’ve never smoked pot.  I’ve also never parked illegally and never sped,” joked Councilman Chris Nevitt.

“I’m 60-years-old, I went to school at the University of Michigan, do a little research,” said Councilwoman Carol Boigon, placing herself in college during the flower child times of the 1960s, but refusing to comment on whether she ever used marijuana.

Serious No-Comments

Others were more serious in refusing to comment.

“That’s none of your business,” answered Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann.  “And if I had smoked marijuana, it was illegal.  If I had ever smoked it, it’s always been illegal and it’s still illegal.”

Citizens for a Safer Denver, the group spearheading the ballot petition process for the proposed ordinance, said Council members should be making a statement and vote in favor of the ordinance so that other good people like themselves are not faced with a possible criminal record for smoking pot.

“I think it’s safe to say most of these elected officials would not be where they are today had they been arrested for marijuana in their past,” said Mason Tvert, executive director of Citizens for a Safer Denver.  “I have to wonder how many future Denver leaders’ lives were derailed this past year after they were caught doing what our officials once did.”


One such official is Hickenlooper, who said his decisions in life should not be the basis for public policy.

“As I’ve already been open about in the past — and as I assume many would expect — I made personal choices when I was younger that I neither support nor condone for others and certainly wouldn’t encourage through public policy,” Hickenlooper said.

The mayor’s spokeswoman, Lindy Eichenbaum Lent, defended the mayor’s opposition to ordinances that lower the enforcement policy for marijuana as not hypocritical, but as lessons learned in life.

“Given that the mayor didn’t contemplate running for elected office until he was 50, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone that he made personal choices during his younger days that he wouldn’t encourage as mayor through public policy,” she said.  “That’s not hypocritical — that’s common sense.”

Madison was another one to embrace the spirit of full disclosure and explained that she stopped smoking pot because she felt it was not for her.

Pot Makes You Stupid?

“Marijuana just isn’t a good drug for me, it makes me stupid,” she said, stating that she quit smoking pot when she was 21 years old.  “Some people become eloquent and energetic, but for me I become one of those stupid people.”

Councilman Doug Linkhart supported the 2005 ballot initiative to legalize the simple possession of marijuana in Denver, but refused to comment on his personal experience with the drug.

“I don’t want to get into that, I don’t think it’s appropriate for this ballot issue,” he said.

Hancock said he never tried marijuana because he is confident that it is a gateway drug that leads to more harmful substances.

“I’m convinced through personal experience and empirical data that marijuana is a gateway drug,” Hancock said, noting that he watched his brothers lose their “sense of control” when they smoked pot.  “Those who sit back and promote the use of any illegal substance quite frankly concerns me.”

Gateway Drug

Councilwoman Judy Montero agreed that marijuana is a gateway drug.  She refused to comment on her personal experience with the drug, arguing that the issue is not about her.

“I’m not going to answer that, this isn’t about me,” she said.  “( My constituents ) can think what they want, I’m not going there with this initiative because it’s not about me, it’s about what was before us when they brought their petition.”

Gateway to What?

Tvert pointed to the fact that at least four on Council and the mayor all smoked marijuana, but never became addicted to drugs.

“Councilman Hancock claims marijuana is a ‘gateway drug,’ but our mayor and council members never went on to use harder drugs, with the exception of alcohol, of course,” Tvert said.

Councilman Charlie Brown, who led the opposition effort in 2005 to Initiative 100, refused to comment on whether he ever used marijuana, stating that he’s “sick” of the issue and that the proponents never admit to using marijuana themselves.

Tvert said he has smoked pot: “I’ve certainly used marijuana, and I think it’s unfortunate that the only drug I can use legally in Denver – — alcohol — is far more harmful,” he said.

Symbolic, Unenforceable

For most elected officials, however, the issue is with supporting an initiative that is symbolic and unenforceable.  Officials argue that marijuana is illegal statewide and by federal law and therefore police officers are sworn to uphold those laws, despite the will of local voters.

“This particular referendum being considered by City Council is yet another symbolic measure by which some voters will — as they have in the past — register frustration with the federal war on drugs, their support for medical marijuana or their sense of humor — particularly since they know it won’t change the law,” Hickenlooper said, adding that simple marijuana possession is already a low priority for the Denver Police Department.

Lopez said he cannot support an ordinance that lowers the priority of drug enforcement in his neighborhood.

Wrong Message

“For my district, it’s the wrong message,” Lopez said, stating that he grew up with people who sold drugs — relationships that made him want to stay away from illicit substances, including marijuana.  “In a district where we lack youth programs and positive outlets, it’s the wrong message.”

Faatz said it’s a matter of not wanting to overstep her role as a city councilwoman.

“I want the law enforcement officers to enforce the laws that are on the books,” she said.  “It’s not my role as a city councilperson to pick and choose.”

Johnson admitted that she had once ingested marijuana, but that her personal experience is irrelevant to the current ballot issue.

“I had a brownie once, there may have even been a bowl going with it .  I got a good taste and even a case of the giggles, but I voted against it because I’m thinking of the message to little children,” Johnson said.


Garcia said his decision to oppose initiatives that make marijuana a lower priority is based on research, not from his personal experience trying marijuana when he was 20-years-old.

Robb echoed similar sentiment, admitting that she once as a teenager smoked pot and then had to drive some sick friends home, an experience that she said was “very difficult.” She does not buy Tvert’s argument that initiatives to legalize or lower the priority of marijuana enforcement is aimed at saving good people from criminal trouble.

“The odds are that it is very unlikely that if you speed once, you’ll get a ticket,” Robb said.  “But, if you speed habitually, you do.”

Topics: Articles | Comments Off

Comments are closed.