Authorities weigh enforcement of 1-ounce limit

Local law enforcement and attorneys were pondering changes to their day-to-day business Wednesday as federal counterparts were silent on Colorado’s legalization of marijuana in small amounts.

Among first considerations: Probable-cause determinations by police issuing pot possession tickets.

While a trained police officer can reach conclusions about the weight of a marijuana sample simply by looking at it, there will be tougher calls under what’s protected by Amendment 64, Mesa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said.

The measure passed Tuesday legalizes possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana, or six marijuana plants, for people 21 or older. It would also allow marijuana to be sold at regulated stores, which local governments could ban from their communities.

“Are we going to give all officers digital scales? Before, with any amount under two ounces, we didn’t have to weigh it,” Rubinstein said. “This will certainly increase costs.”

Under current law, possessing two ounces or less of marijuana is a class 2 petty offense, typically handled with a court summons.

Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey said while deputies have access to certified scales at the Sheriff’s Department, a hypothetical determination of the weight of a marijuana sample would have to made in the field by a deputy in contact with someone.

“I don’t know if we’ve contemplated that,” Hilkey said. “We’re in the same place you are today, trying to figure out what this means for our operations.”

Amendment 64 will become law with the certification of Colorado’s general election results, which could be as late as Dec. 6. Until then, it remains illegal to possess any amount of marijuana in Colorado without medical-marijuana approval.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver said the ballot measure was under review, but little else.

“We’re on standby, waiting for clarification,” said Jim Schrant, resident agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Grand Junction.

Hilkey predicted the law wouldn’t bring a dramatic shift in his agency’s day-to-day business. As it stands now, they can’t keep up with lawful marijuana, he said.

“We’re getting all kinds of complaints on the medical-marijuana side,” Hilkey said. “We’re not investigating because there are too many of those things.”


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