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By MEGAN McCLOSKEY
Associated Press Writer

The nickname Mile High City could soon have an entirely new meaning.

Denver voters will decide Tuesday whether to make it legal for adults to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. Seattle, Oakland, Calif., and a few college towns already have laws making possession the lowest law enforcement priority.

Supporters in Denver have launched a "Make Denver Safer" campaign that contends the change will help curb domestic violence.

"There's no doubt that if people choose to use marijuana instead of alcohol we would not have the same number of problems," said Mason Tvert, the 23-year-old campaign organizer.

The argument has angered local officials.

"It's a deceptive and deceitful campaign," said Councilman Charlie Brown, who spent a recent Saturday night ripping the signs down from parks and medians - where they are banned - and throwing them in the garbage. "Domestic violence is not on the ballot. Alcohol is not on the ballot. Marijuana is on the ballot."

A "yes" vote probably won't make much difference. The city attorney's office said Denver police will simply file marijuana possession charges under state law, which carries up to a $100 fine and a mandatory $100 drug-offender surcharge.

"The initiative isn't going to change the way we do business," said Vince DeCroce, director of prosecution for the attorney's office.

From 2002 to August of this year, some 6,800 people in Denver were charged with possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, according to the city attorney's office. Of those, only 74 were charged under the city ordinance.

Critics of the ballot measure are wary of what a "yes" vote might do to Denver's reputation.

"People will flock to Denver to use marijuana," said Jeffrey Sweetin, head of the Rocky Mountain Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Even if possession of one ounce is legal, people would still have to illegally buy the drug, Sweetin said, and "people don't realize all that money goes to organized crime."
 
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