Eagle cops won’t safeguard weed when owner is arrested
As local officials grapple with the ramifications of Colorado’s Amendment 64, Eagle Police have presented a formal resolution regarding one aspect of the new law.
In short, Eagle’s cops don’t want to be left holding.
Last November, Colorado voters passed Amending 64, which legalizes marijuana as a recreational drug for people 21 years and older, provided they use it in private and possess not more than one ounce of the drug. Since that time governmental agencies ranging from the state legislature to individual municipalities have been working on rules to implement the amendment’s intent. What’s complicating the issue is federal law still prohibits marijuana and the United States Drug Enforcement Agency classifies it as a schedule I substance.
According to Eagle Police Chief Rodger McLaughlin, the department wanted a formal procedure outlined regarding what will happen to someone’s marijuana in the event he or she is arrested. The rules will apply in cases when a person of legal age, possessing a legal amount of marijuana is arrested on an unrelated charge. If the marijuana is a germane part of the arrest — a driving under the influence charge, for example — local police will confiscate any marijuana found and log it as evidence. However, McLaughlin said the more troublesome issue would be a case when a person is arrested on an unrelated charge and a legal amount of marijuana, as defined by Amendment 64, is found on his or her person.
“It is illegal to bring marijuana into the jail,” said McLaughlin. “And as a law enforcement agency, I don’t want to be in the business of keeping someone’s marijuana for safekeeping.”
McLaughlin noted under federal law, his department would be guilty of both possession and transfer of the drug if officers agreed to safekeeping services. However, he also noted that Colorado voters have made their will clear by passing Amendment 64. McLaughlin believes the new ordinance in Eagle provides a “reasonable standard” for police behavior.
As approved by the Eagle Town Board last week, the ordinance outlines procedures in the event of the arrest of some in possession of “allowable limits allowed by state law.”
The new ordinance says police officers will “make good faith effort to have the individual being arrested or taken into custody leave the marijuana at his/her residence or his/her vehicle.” If that doesn’t work out, the person being arrested will be given an opportunity to call someone to take legal possession. If all this fails, officers will destroy the marijuana in the presence of the person who possesses it.
McLaughlin said last week’s ordinance is likely the first of many that will outline particular procedures as Eagle hashes out its marijuana rules. “We won’t know what Amendment 64 will look like for several years. There are so many issues to work through,” said McLaughlin. “But municipalities and counties have a deadline for us to determine how we are going to handle things and get laws on the books.”
For now, McLaughlin said his department has resolved an obvious, logistical issue. He noted officers take an oath to uphold all federal, state and local laws and last week’s ordinance finds a middle ground in the Amendment 64 dilemma.