Vail Daily column: Lighting up (for) the holidays
Like it or not, Colorado is at the prow of a ship creating a very large wake.
Following ratification by the voters, the sale and possession of “medical marijuana” was adopted into law on Dec. 28, 2000, and may be found in Article 18, Section 14 of the Colorado State Constitution. In 2012, Colorado became one of two states to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana for recreational purposes. The 2012 law, Amendment 64, has been, to say the least, controversial, not in small part because the sale and possession of marijuana in this state or any other remains a crime under federal law. In fact, under federal law, marijuana is considered a schedule 1 substance, which may be defined as a drug or substance with no known redeeming medical value.
Possession of a schedule 1 drug is a serious crime under federal law. Depending on the quantity and whether it is a first or subsequent offense, sale or possession of marijuana can result in prison time of up to life and fines that can reach into the tens of millions.
And then there is that pesky issue of the supremacy clause (Article 6, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution), which holds that where state and federal laws butt heads, the bigger rack is on the noggin of the feds. More precisely, what the supremacy clause holds is that where state and federal laws collide, federal law takes precedence.
To be advised is to be aware.
So far at least, the feds aren’t cracking heads and most folks in the know believe that if the feds do one day take a hard line, their focus will not be on the individual or casual user. The thinking goes that if the feds do flex their considerable muscle, what they may do is shut things down, but they will not clog the courts or fill the prisons with marijuana businesspersons or users who were abiding by the letter of state law.
All of this said, while this does remain the West, it may not be quite so “wild” as one suspects. There are rules to follow, and if one steps out of line, there can and likely will be serious consequences.
REMEMBER THE RULES
So if you are a guest or a local and you’re thinking of lighting up the holidays in colorful Colorado, the rules to keep in mind are these:
First, the ski areas are national forests. They are federal property and are subject to federal law. Light up on the slopes and you will be subject to federal law and, potentially, federal penalties.
Second, under Colorado law, you may not light up in any public place. Smoke if you will, but smoke under your own roof.
Adults age of 21 and older may possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana on their person. Possession by a person younger than 21 is illegal unless the person is older than 18 years of age and in possession of a medical marijuana card issued by the state. While possession of over 1 ounce is a misdemeanor offense under state law, possession of more than 12 ounces is a felony.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GROW
While one may grow one’s own marijuana (but not more than 6 plants), marijuana may only be purchased from a licensed store. Home cultivation must be strictly in compliance with local building codes and various state restrictions. Don’t presume; make sure you know before you grow.
Selling or giving marijuana to any person under the age of 21 is a serious offense.
DON’T SMOKE AND DRIVE
Driving while marijuana impaired is illegal. Although some of the details of driving while impaired are still being sorted out, a person is presumed to be affected at very low doses, 5 nanograms per milliliter. Since chances are you wouldn’t know how many nanograms of TCH may be present in your blood, the best advice is not to smoke and drive. Any amount may land you in more trouble than you bargained for.
Marijuana may not be shipped or transported from Colorado to any other state or country. Crossing state lines with marijuana is a federal crime.
While an in-state resident may purchase up to 1 ounce of marijuana per transaction, an out-of-state visitor cannot exceed a quarter ounce per transaction.
It is worth noting, too, that local municipalities can, and have, banned marijuana sales in their jurisdictions. While not exclusively, most marijuana stores have been concentrated in certain areas in Eagle County.
Light up for the holidays if you will but, for your own sake and for the sakes of those around you, please follow all the rules. If marijuana is your thing, the way to keep it legal is to keep the ripples small. Keep in mind it is not only not others’ “thing” but some have very serious objections.
Keep things courteous and light. And may all your Christmases be bright.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley with the law firm of Stevens, Littman, Biddision, Tharp and Weinberg LLC. His practice areas include business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, family law, custody, divorce and civil litigation. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at either of his email addresses, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.