Rangers to write pot tickets on slopes

Skiers, hikers and others planning to toke up in the Colorado high country will have no protection from the state’s new marijuana-legalization law.

The U.S. Forest Service will enforce the federal prohibition on marijuana on forest lands, spokesman Chris Strebig said.

The voter-approved legalization of adults possessing small amounts of marijuana became effective this year in Colorado, but that won’t matter to forest rangers who routinely patrol ski areas, campgrounds and other parts of the forests.

“Nothing has changed from last year to this year,” Strebig said. Marijuana possession “was illegal then and it is illegal now.”

In 2012, the Forest Service logged 112 citations related to marijuana possession across Colorado.

As of early September, statewide citations totaled 93, Strebig said, citing the most recent figures available.

Penalties range from a minimum fine of $250 to a maximum of $5,000.

“You will be cited if caught using and possessing” marijuana, Strebig said.

The Forest Service, however, won’t make extraordinary efforts to capture users, he said.

“We generally do not conduct undercover investigations, but rangers will patrol those (ski) areas, just as they do campgrounds and other places,” Strebig said.

While Amendment 64 allows possession by adults, it prohibits the use of marijuana in public and Strebig noted that “a ski area would be a very public place and so would a campground.”

Figures collected by the Forest Service showed that during 2012, the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests, which are managed as a single unit, accounted for 24 marijuana-related citations.

The White River National Forest, which contains Colorado’s largest and best-known ski areas, accounted for just five citations.

One possible reason for the difference is that the White River was in the process of hiring a new law enforcement ranger in 2012, Strebig said.

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