- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 4, 2009


DENVER (AP) — Breckenridge made pot legal, Denver rejected a get-tough proposal on unlicensed drivers, and tax hikes were turned back around the state Tuesday in municipal elections that appeared to show a public in an anti-government mood.

In Breckenridge, 72 percent of voters in early returns voted to make up to 1 ounce of marijuana legal for adults over 21. The measure is largely symbolic — pot possession is still against state law — but supporters said they wanted to send a message to local law enforcement to stop busting small-time pot smokers.

“We believe this a signal to the state of Colorado and the nation as a whole,” said Sean McAllister, a Breckenridge lawyer who pushed the decriminalization measure. Denver approved a similar decriminalization in 2005.

The Breckenridge vote came as communities nationwide are struggling with how to enforce pot laws at a time when medical marijuana has surged in popularity, especially in Colorado and California.

McAllister said the vote shows people want to skip medical marijuana and legalize pot for everyone.

“They’re saying, ‘We’ve seen this drug war, and it has failed,’” McAllister said.

In Denver, voters defeated a proposal to require police to seize cars from people caught driving without a license.

The measure was aimed at illegal immigrants, and it intensified interest in an otherwise ho-hum municipal slate in Colorado’s largest city. In early returns Tuesday, the Denver car proposal was losing more than 2-to-1, with 23,275 votes for and 51,757 votes against.

The vote came just a day after the release of a state audit showing that unlicensed drivers were involved in nearly one-fourth of all fatal crashes last year. City voters weren’t swayed, though.

“Simply put, it was a very racist initiative,” said Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez. A majority of the council asked voters to reject the ballot initiative, saying it would tie up officers, who already have the authority to impound cars if they choose.

Elsewhere around Colorado, voters seemed in no mood to help the government. Voters in Colorado Springs crushed a proposal to hike property taxes to prevent city budget cuts. The rejection came despite warnings from city officials that even police officers and firefighters would have to face layoffs without the tax hike.

A sales tax extension for open space was failing in Boulder County, while Aurora voters rebuffed a tax hike for libraries. In Pueblo, voters were strongly rejecting two plans to change city government in early returns. In Berthoud, voters decided not to join a taxing district to support a community college.

However, not all tax hikes went down Tuesday. In Eagle County, Vail voters narrowly signed off on a property tax hike to make improvements to the city’s pools, trails and golf course.

Turnout was light. In some towns, elections officials said only about 20 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Associated Press Writer Ivan Moreno in Denver contributed to this report.

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