Derek Franz

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January 16, 2013
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Cops, towns already adjusting to Amend. 64

Now that it is 2013, Amendment 64 is technically in effect, making it legal for people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and consume it in private.

Marijuana is still considered fully illegal by the federal government, however.

Despite federal disapproval, Colorado lawmakers are still hashing out how to regulate recreational marijuana use. That is likely to take at least until July, and then counties and municipalities will draft their own laws.

While legislators figure out the details, the Eagle County Sheriff and Eagle Police will abide by the books.

"By law, people 21 and older can have an ounce or less of marijuana in their possession," said Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy. "If we stop them and they're within the law - no problem."

That's assuming a driver is sober. If a person is under the influence of marijuana while driving or in possession of more than an ounce, "that is different," Hoy said.

Eagle Police Chief Rodger McLaughlin said they will honor the limited possession law as well.

"We'll handle it on a case-by-case basis," he said. "We're waiting on some administrative things. It could take months and months to figure out these administrative issues."

It's definitely not OK to use marijuana and drive, McLaughlin said.

"We consider using marijuana while driving to be in a public place and we will take action when it's appropriate," he said.

Meanwhile, the towns of Eagle and Gypsum are bracing for the change in state law.

At their meeting last week, Gypsum Town Council members emphasized that marijuana is not welcome there, as far as town employees are concerned.

"It might be legal for the rest of the world but it's forbidden to town employees," said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll. "We've always had a zero-tolerance policy."

Regarding marijuana businesses, that's not a possibility, Shroll said.

"We're going to hold the line just like we did with medical marijuana businesses," he said. "To get a business license in Gypsum, you have to sign an affidavit that says you comply with all local, state and federal laws - you can't sign it for a marijuana business because it's still illegal with the federal government. So we don't really have to do anything. We didn't even change the format of our business license for this - it's been the same for about 10 years."

The town of Eagle is slightly more receptive to the amendment and marijuana businesses, if only because one medical marijuana dispensary has already been operating there since 2010.

In 2010, the Eagle Town Board approved the Sweet Leaf Pioneer in a split vote. In February 2011, the town board reversed that decision and voted to ban medical marijuana operations in the community. The Sweet Leaf owners successfully petitioned for a special election to allow their business to remain open. In January 2012, Eagle voters passed the measure.

The Sweet Leaf Pioneer owners said they will try to get a retail license to sell marijuana when the time is appropriate.

Eagle Town Attorney Ed Sands said the town will need to draft its own code in response to the amendment but is waiting to see what the state government does. He said the town will accept applications for marijuana retail stores but it isn't a sure bet the stores will be allowed in town.

"The town board could decide to prohibit such stores or it could go to the voters for a decision," he said. "We also don't know what the federal government is going to do."

Sands said there are some municipalities that have some active bans on marijuana businesses already.

"The main issue we're looking into is how to prevent private marijuana clubs that have been opening around the state," he said.

A marijuana club is similar to a bar or night club where people can use marijuana in a place that is technically private, since "members" pay to gain access.

Sands pointed out that the state tobacco-smoking laws will also apply to marijuana. The law limits smoking in many public environments.

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The VailDaily Updated Jan 16, 2013 12:47PM Published Jan 16, 2013 12:46PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.