Two more Colorado towns, Leadville and Aspen, could be voting this year on whether to decriminalize marijuana possession.
The Leadville City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to direct their city attorney to draft language that would change city code to waive pot fines. Currently, Leadville law allows for a fine of up to $100 for possession of less than an ounce of pot.
In Aspen, attorney Lauren Maytin said there are talks to bring a marijuana decriminalization move to voters there this fall. Denver and Breckenridge have already voted to waive criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of pot by adults over 21.
Decriminalization moves are largely symbolic, though. Pot possession remains a state crime.
In Leadville, a Lake County town of about 2,800 people, the move to decriminalize marijuana possession would be the first in the state initiated by city officials, not residents. A Leadville resident who pushed for the change said he was happy to see officials on board.
"It's nice to see that our community is behind this," Ken Griffin told the Aspen Daily News. "We still have a few people who think it is a gateway, but man, that argument is 40 years old."
Leadville City Council still needs to vote to formally put the measure on the ballot, but city officials said the council members intend to place the question before Leadville voters in November, even if all of them don't necessarily support legalization.
"They all voiced opinions that the question should be put to the voters," said Padraic Smith, the director of administrative services for Leadville.
One opponent of the idea was Katie Baldassar of The Build a Generation Coalition, a Leadville nonprofit that seeks to protect kids from risky behavior.
Baldassar said legalization of marijuana could lead to increased availability and increased acceptance of the drug.
"Our concern is that choosing to legalize marijuana does both of these things," Baldassar told the newspaper.
In Aspen, Maytin told the newspaper that talks are ongoing about a decriminalization ballot question. Currently Aspen has no city crime of marijuana possession, so the city relies on state law when it comes to pot possession, which means it is a petty offense and a $100 fine to possess less than an ounce.
"There is discussion happening about what a proposal should be for Aspen," said Maytin, who is on the board of directors of the Colorado chapter of NORMAL, a nonprofit working to reform the nation's marijuana laws.
Sean McAllister, a Breckenridge attorney who last year led a successful effort to decriminalize pot in that town, said more towns are likely to consider loosening pot laws.
"It's just a continual march toward legalization in the state of Colorado," he said.
January 21, 2010