Since recreational marijuana stores opened in January, Denver Police have issued an unprecedented number of citations for public consumption and display of the drug.
Through the first three quarters of 2014 police wrote 668 tickets, compared to just 117 for the same period the year before, a 471 percent increase.
A ban on open and public consumption* of marijuana is written into the voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing pot back in 2012. Denver officials also passed an ordinance last year setting fines of up to $999 if caught smoking in a public place.
“We have to look out for the betterment of the whole city,” says Christine Downs a spokesperson for the Denver Police Department. “And that’s what we do, so we cite people who are consuming in public.”
Downs added that tourists and residents need to know that the only lawful place to consume marijuana is in a private residence.
But tourists flocking to Denver, to buy at one of the city’s 101 licensed recreational pot stores, don’t have that option.
Some marijuana advocates argue the drug isn’t truly legal if cities only allow retail stores.
“We don’t have the bar/club side,” says Rob Corry, a Denver-based attorney involved in the legalization movement. “Denver is going to continue to see public consumption of it, that will be inevitable, until Denver allows people a place to consume it.”
Corry himself has had run-ins with the Denver Police for smoking in public. The Denver Post reported he was cited for smoking in public outside Coors Field last year during a Rockies game. Corry wouldn’t comment on the incident.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that open and public "display" is banned by the voter-approved amendment that legalized pot. In fact, it is open and public "consumption" that is banned.