Understandable haze surrounds pot law
One doesn’t have to be stoned to be confused about Colorado’s just-passed Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana use, and how it will be enforced.
Nor should people blame law enforcement for current inconsistencies in dealing with Amendment 64. There is confusion enough in the wording of the measure, not to mention the obvious conflicts between state and federal law.
Although he is no fan of the Amendment, Grand Junction Police Chief John Camper has instructed his officers to no longer write tickets for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana or possession of up to six marijuana plants. This even though the change in law won’t officially occur until election ballots are certified by Dec. 6.
Camper explained, logically enough, that it makes little sense for his officers to spend time on such minor marijuana offenses when they will soon be legal under state law.
Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey has yet to produce a specific policy for his officers.
And District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he will keep prosecuting any petty-offense pot tickets written between now and when the ballots are certified. That’s a defensible position, since possession is still technically illegal.
There are other questions. For instance, all local law officers have the authority to arrest people for violations of federal law. Since marijuana possession is still prohibited under federal law, what is a local officer’s responsibility?
Furthermore, while possession of up to six marijuana plants will become legal under state law, Amendment 64 says those plants must be “in an enclosed locked space” and growing cannot be “conducted openly or publicly.”
What should police do when they spot pot plants growing in a bedroom window or in an unfenced garden?
Should those violators be issued warnings or citations?
The amendment also says no more than three of a person’s marijuana plants may be mature. Will police officers now undergo horticulture training to determine which plants are mature?
With the passage of Amendment 64, Colorado is embarking on a unique experiment in ending marijuana prohibition, the consequence of which cannot be clearly predicted.
It is interesting to note that we are undertaking this experiment in part because of billionaire George Soros, who also worked to see President Barack Obama re-elected. Soros is a board member and financial supporter of the Drug Policy Alliance, which helped draft Amendment 64 and worked to support its passage.
It looks like it worked.
Even so, people should cut law enforcement officials slack if they take some time to determine how best to implement Amendment 64.