Fruita police nix pot tickets
Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo directed officers earlier this week to stop issuing minor marijuana tickets consistent with Amendment 64, joining law enforcement colleagues in Grand Junction and Palisade who have tweaked policy ahead of a formal change in Colorado law.
The change was effective this past Monday.
“We will not issue summons for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, and/or consumption of and/or being under the influence of marijuana,” reads Angelo’s e-mail directive, which applies only to those 21 or older.
Underage enforcement will still be prosecuted, in addition to driving under the influence, he said.
“It is still against the law to consume marijuana in public; therefore, an officer can and may issue a summons for publicly consuming marijuana but may not confiscate any marijuana or paraphernalia at this time,” the directive reads. “The (Fruita) municipal ordinance is clear enough for an officer to successfully prosecute a violation for public consumption.”
Angelo offered this additional guidance to officers, “Taking a picture of the evidence is suggested. Asking for and with consent, an officer may take a very small amount of marijuana for a field test if there is a question on whether it is marijuana or not.”
There are notable departures from a Grand Junction police directive issued on Nov. 9, which instructed officers to stop issuing ounce-or-less marijuana tickets. Palisade officers have been given similar instructions.
“We will not issue summons for possession of drug paraphernalia,” the Fruita directive reads.
Grand Junction’s statement of policy noted paraphernalia tickets can still be cited under state law, although it’s likely the state Legislature will revise paraphernalia laws to allow accessories for those 21 and older in line with Amendment 64.
“Officers are not expected to write reports, nor take evidence for the U.S. Attorney to consider for prosecution,” the directive reads.
Heather Benjamin, spokeswoman for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department, said department policy remains unchanged. Sheriff Stan Hilkey has said his agency will be in compliance “when the law becomes law.”
Amendment 64 is expected to become law upon certification of election results Dec. 6, while federal authorities have remained silent on Colorado’s vote.
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger has said he will continue to prosecute existing petty- offense marijuana tickets issued before or after the Nov. 6 general election. Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 by a 55 percent to 45 percent count, while Mesa County voters opposed it, 53 to 47 percent.