Denver's voters have favored marijuana four separate times -- every time they have been asked -- making Denver the most pro-marijuana major city on Earth. In the last decade, Denver has: joined with the rest of Colorado in enshrining a constitutional right to medical marijuana, voted to legalize under its municipal code less than one ounce for adults, voted to legalize under state law less than one ounce for adults, and voted to set marijuana as the "lowest law enforcement priority" and create commission to implement this priority.
With the Denver Mayor's election just around the corner, it remains to be seen whether a candidate's position on marijuana translates to votes. The support of the medical marijuana community, which has money, people, and a laser-like focus on one single life-or-death issue, could sway a close election. Five front runners in the crowded field, all Democrats, have established positions on marijuana, and here is the straight dope on each of them:
Most candidates are ashamed and scared of medical marijuana. By contrast, only one candidate, Doug Linkhart, has specifically reached out to our community, and supports medical marijuana, knowing that Denver's medical marijuana community has created thousands of jobs and stimulated business. As a Denver City Councilman, Doug has repeatedly stood up for patients' rights, such as voting against zoning restrictions on individual patient grows. Sometimes he has been the lone voice on our side against the "Reefer Madness" zealots. He has pledged to stop wasting City resources on prosecuting people for small personal use amounts, which would be revolutionary. I have known Doug for a while, and have met with him personally, and I formally endorsed him and donated to his campaign. I am co-sponsoring a marijuana industry-themed fundraiser for Doug on Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 7:30pm at Jake's, 3800 Walnut Street, Denver. This community has some deficiencies, but we do know how to throw a party, and something tells me this will be one of the best, non-boring, political events of the year. Doug's got the Nugs.
Though a likable and pleasant politician, on the issues that matter Romer firmly supports the iron fist of the state over the needs of suffering medical marijuana patients with cancer and other debilitating conditions. I had such high hopes for Senator Romer at the beginning of the last legislative session, since he seemed an open-minded guy. But he underwent a "devolution" as the session progressed, looking beyond his liberal urban State Senate district and realizing his "Sister Soulja" moment when he grabbed headlines standing up to strident marijuana advocates. Romer is partially to blame for House Bill 10-1284 and Senate Bill 10-109, both of which harm patient access through crushing and expensive regulation. While his campaign proposes to "cut [the] red tape and make it easier to do business in Denver," his actions are opposite of his words; he called many in the business "thugs and knuckleheads," and his stated goal was to put 80% of medical marijuana businesses "out of business." If Romer is elected mayor, expect more burdens and roadblocks in operating a medical marijuana business or obtaining medicine. Romer is the presumptive front-runner and has more money and name recognition than any other candidate, but Denver voters seem to favor "the underdog" in the last three open mayoral races.
Michael Hancock fears medical marijuana. Even though there is no proven correlation between medical marijuana and crime, Hancock suggests that armed security guards and budtenders with concealed weapons would be a step in the right direction for protecting Denver communities from medical marijuana crime. Hancock would also prefer that all dispensaries be "at least a mile away" from schools, a distance that would effectively ban all Denver dispensaries. Furthermore, Hancock opposes legalization, and subscribes to the discredited notion of marijuana as a "gateway drug." If Hancock is elected Mayor of Denver, expect tighter security measures at Denver dispensaries and decisions based on irrational fears of crime and the corruption of children.
Carol Boigon shares Hancock's fear of medical marijuana. As a city councilwoman at large, she proposed overly restrictive zoning requirements and burdensome security measures for delivery of medical marijuana because of unfounded fears of highway robberies. Boigon also opposed a grandfathering clause that allows established Denver dispensaries to continue their operations, even though they are located too close to schools. "The issue of unattended children is a big one for me," Boigon states, even though with over 1000 dispensaries in Colorado there is not a single documented case of an unauthorized minor obtaining marijuana from a dispensary, and it is much easier for children to buy marijuana from school yard dealers than from dispensaries. If Boigon is elected mayor, expect overly restrictive and burdensome regulations similar to the restrictions she proposed as councilwoman at large.
James Mejia doesn't trust medical marijuana. He states that, "[t]he voters do not currently have what they voted for. There are a lot of people who have no ailments, who are getting access to marijuana." While Mejia does not oppose medical marijuana, he is not an avid supporter. Mejia comes from an education reform background, and his campaign is centered on educational opportunities for Colorado's youth. If Mejia is elected mayor, don't expect a lot of emphasis on the protection of patient and caregiver rights, and expect strict distance restrictions for medical marijuana businesses around schools.
Denver voters can be fiscally smart and socially progressive, at least as far as their actions related to marijuana. From the South Broadway "Green Mile" to the luxurious downtown dispensaries, Denver patients love medical marijuana. From decriminalizing of marijuana possession to deprioritizing of enforcement of marijuana offenses, Denver voters favor marijuana. Denver needs a mayor who will cultivate this love, not try to eradicate it.
Doug Linkhart will protect and support Denver's thriving medical marijuana community, and will support legalization if voters make it a reality in 2012. That is why Doug Linkhart is this particular pro-marijuana Republican's choice for the next mayor of Denver. His marijuana industry fundraiser will set the pace for this race.