It looked like a done deal, but a controversial decision by the Denver City Council that would have banned legal recreational marijuana use in public view on private property went up in smoke Monday.
One of Denver's city council members reversed his original decision on the marijuana use ordinance, citing concerns about private property rights and the enforceability of the ban which appeared poised to pass just last week.
"It's setting a false expectation up," said Councilman Albus Brooks, who flipped his vote on the ban. "Because we're not going to address this issue. We don't have the resources to do it."
Now if the ordinance becomes law after a final vote next Monday, Denver residents will be allowed to smoke pot anywhere on their properties whether they are in their homes, in their backyards, or on their front porches in plain sight of their neighbors. If pot smokers are at someone else's house, they would need permission from the owner of that property.
Previously, smoking marijuana in public view could have amounted to about a $1,000 fine.
The sudden reversal of the front porch pot ban came as a surprise, since council members had just voted in favor of the ban last Monday and had been expected to take a final vote to make the ordinance law.
Last week Denver Police Chief Robert White said enforcement of a ban would be his department's lowest priority. The council has struggled to come up with a legal definition of what "open" and "public" consumption of marijuana looks like. The council's failed first draft of the ordinance threatened to make the very smell or sight of marijuana consumption illegal.
But the restrictions on marijuana use may not be done yet. Councilwoman Debbie Ortega has said that she will introduce another proposal banning the use of pot within 1,000 feet of a school.
"I believe that it is our responsibility to be more restrictive, and then we can come back and look at where we need to make changes. It will be far easier to loosen things than taking those floodgates and try to close them sometime later," Ortega said.
Colorado's first recreational marijuana shops are expected to open their doors on Jan. 1, 2014.