GJPD bows to voters over legal pot
With a change in law still pending, Grand Junction Police Department officers have been told to stop issuing ounce-or-less marijuana tickets, which look to soon run afoul of Amendment 64, according to documents obtained by The Daily Sentinel.
The directive, sent to Grand Junction patrol officers on Friday night, was crafted by police administration and the city attorney’s office, Police Chief John Camper said Wednesday.
“Therefore and effective immediately it is the policy of the GJPD not to cite persons age 21 or older that possess and/or consume 1 ounce or less of marijuana and/or cultivate and possess 6 or less plants as allowed by the Amendment,” reads the directive.
“With a supervisor’s approval GJPD officers may in their discretion write an offense report and forward the same to the U.S. Attorney,” the directive continues. “Although it is unlikely that the U.S. Attorney may charge and/or prosecute federal marijuana offenses officers may submit reports/requests for prosecution.”
The department’s move comes as Amendment 64 has yet to become law in Colorado, pending certification of the Nov. 6 general election results, which must happen no later than Dec. 6.
Grand Junction’s abrupt halt in enforcement comes as the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department has yet to issue policy instructions to deputies, which Sheriff Stan Hilkey suggested is a matter of time.
“Whether we go earlier or later, we’re all going along with the intent of coming into compliance when the law becomes law,” Hilkey said.
Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said he will continue to prosecute pot possession cases of one ounce or less “until the law is officially changed.”
Camper said his intent was to give patrol direction.
“We want to make best use of their enforcement time, and having them enforce something that’s going to soon be legal is not a good use of their time,” said Camper, while being critical of what he called a “crappy” amendment.
“I remain very concerned about the negative effects this ill-advised amendment will have on our community and our youth,” he said.
Interim Palisade Police Chief Mike Nordine said he’s also instructed officers to stop issuing tickets for possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana for persons 21 and older, with an eye on compliance with Amendment 64.
“Prosecuting any such case is going to be extremely difficult by the time any of them get to court,” Nordine said. “It seems to me to be a whole lot of battle for not much return at this point.”
Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
Camper’s policy directive notes consumption of marijuana in public is still forbidden.
Amendment 64 also provides that a person may grow up to six plants with three or fewer being mature.
“Keeping plants and product together is not an issue so long as the ‘growing takes place in an enclosed, locked space, is not conducted openly or publicly and is not made available for sale,” the directive reads,
Possession of more than an ounce of marijuana will still be illegal, absent medical marijuana approval.
What about drug paraphernalia?
“The legislature will likely revise possession of drug paraphernalia laws to exclude ‘marijuana’ accessories for those 21 years of age and older; however until the law is revised an officer may cite state law offenses,” the directive reads.
Driving under the influence of drugs, as well as underage possession and consumption, are still enforceable, the directive notes.