Colorado pot smokers are getting ticketed for doing so in public this year four times as often as they were in 2012, either because they don't know it's illegal or are too stoned to care.
Amendment 64, which made possession and consumption of small amounts of marijuana legal for those 21 and over in the state in 2012, does not allow for public consumption of the herbal drug. According to the Daily Camera, 113 people have been ticketed for the offense so far in 2013, compared to 29 last year. Offenders can be fined up to $500 the first two offenses - a third can result in up to $1,000 in fines and 90 days in prison. Both Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner and the Boulder County District Attorney said they will continue enforcing punishments for those breaking the law:
Garnett agreed with Beckner that it was probably a mix of people who didn't understand how Amendment 64 worked and those who felt law enforcement didn't care after the measure passed. The DA said he has reassured local law enforcement that he will prosecute their citations. "We've made it clear to police departments that we will prosecute consumption cases and distributing to minors, so they're looking for those because they know those are cases we will pursue," Garnett said.
The University of Colorado, for its part, is educating students on the intricacies of the ruling.
Commercial sale of recreational marijuana in Colorado will begin in January 2014, which could be a major boost to the economy but will further complicate matters for law enforcement. Beckner says he doesn't expect incidents of smoking in public to go up significantly, but that he does anticipate "complaints from neighbors and things like that." Officials also fear that legalizing recreational marijuana use in Colorado could contribute to the drug trade in places where the substance remains illegal. Garnett says, "What I don't want to have is people in Boulder County exporting it to states or municipalities where that is not consistent with the scheme or the philosophies of those communities."
Garnett and Beckner may be comforted by the fact that it actually could be difficult for retailers to open up a pot shop, at least at first. According to Time, lawyers are shying away from unpacking the amendment, which pits state against federal law, and are reticent to offer legal counsel to potential business operators:
Lawyers aren’t just bound to advise clients on following state law, [University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin] says, but also laws in other jurisdictions; breaches of those statutes or ethical rules can lead to disbarment. The U.S. Department of Justice has said that, for now, it won’t come after businesses in Colorado and Washington that are abiding by new marijuana-friendly state statutes. But lawyers who help those businesses could still technically be prosecuted for aiding a client in breaking federal law or conspiring to break federal law, Kamin says, even if the threat of actual prosecution is “remote.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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