Denver mayor wants to stop end free joint handouts in city parks

DENVER - Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday he will move to outlaw handouts of free pot in city parks.

The proposed ordinance will be introduced on Monday by Hancock and City Councilman Chris Nevitt, the mayor told Colorado Public Radio.

Opponents of proposed excise and sales tax rates on recreational marijuana have been giving away pot, with a least one of the events staged at Civic Center Park.

"And so those types of giveaways that you saw will be prohibited in our parks from this point forward, and anyone who decides to partake in our parks will now be subject to citation and possible arrest," Hancock said.

Some activists called the proposed ordinance an attempt to curb free speech.

In November, Colorado voters will decide whether to approve a proposed 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana. Opponents say the rates are too high and will keep pot smokers in the black market.

Many legalization activists and industry groups support the tax rate, as do public officials from both parties.

Hancock spokeswoman Amber Miller said the ordinance will not affect the 4/20 celebration held every April 20 at Civic Center Park. That is a "free speech" event and Miller said police make a tactical decision each year not to incite violence with mass arrests. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this AP story had said Hancock wanted to end the rally, but that was an error.)

Public consumption already is banned under the state law that legalized recreational marijuana in the state.

Tens of thousands of people have attended marijuana celebrations. This year's event was marred by gunfire that injured two people and scattered the crowd.

Police have generally monitored the 4/20 celebrations and focused on crowd security rather than arresting people for smoking in public.

The origins of the number "420" as a code for pot are murky. But the drug's users have held mass smoke-outs to mark April 20.