Van Beek: A visitors guide to cannabis |

Van Beek: A visitors guide to cannabis

As we count the snowflakes in anticipation of resort openings, locals are waxing up their gear, second-home owners are returning, Front Range guests are checking snow tires, and visitors are packing their bags … ski season is almost here.

Given the appeal of Vail and Beaver Creek, the valley enjoys the influx of people from around the globe. While most arrive with snow playtime on their minds, we must be aware that another appeal is the availability of legal cannabis.  

Most people are aware of the obvious and sometimes, not so obvious, regulations of its use. For those to whom the experience is new, I offer the following considerations. One certainly does not want to trade a mountain view for one with bars. I recommend that people go to the Colorado government website and review the details: 

Here is how to maximize your enjoyment in the valley, if it includes cannabis …

Start small

First, understand that at high altitudes, one can experience that Rocky Mountain high without doing anything. If you normally drink a certain amount, you may get that same feeling with considerably less. With cannabis, you quickly feel the effects from it being smoked or vaped, but edibles may take up to four hours to take full effect. Start with a small amount, then wait before consuming more.

The symptoms of using too much marijuana are identical to the common effects of marijuana consumption but more severe. They can include confusion, anxiety, panic, paranoia, rapid heart rate, hallucinations, delusions, increased blood pressure, or vomiting.

General information

  • You must be 21 (18 for medical) to purchase marijuana.
  • It’s a felony for anyone to give, sell, or share marijuana, with anyone under 21.
  • Marijuana can only be legally purchased from licensed retail stores.
  • Adults over the age of 21 can buy and possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana.
  • Adults over 21 can give up to 1 ounce of marijuana to another adult over 21 but can’t sell it.  This includes homegrown products.
  • While some say that marijuana helps with nausea, women who are pregnant should not consume any product with THC, as it is passed on to the fetus and may cause development issues. 
  • Public use is illegal.
  • Smoking, eating, vaping, or ingesting in any form isn’t allowed in public places. This includes sidewalks, parks, ski resorts, concert venues, businesses, restaurants and bars, common areas of buildings or residential units, or on federal land (including ski mountains and national forests) since marijuana is still illegal under federal law. 

Where can you use cannabis?

You can use marijuana on private property, at the discretion of the owner. Residences and hotels may restrict or ban the possession or use of marijuana on their property. Even renters may be unable to use marijuana in their homes.

International travelers may have unique restrictions.

While cannabis is decriminalized in Colorado, if you’re not a U.S. citizen, you can get in serious trouble with the federal government. Permanent legal residents and those with immigrant status should research how the law affects them. 

Purchasing cannabis

A valid ID is required upon entrance, proving one is 21 or older. No minors are allowed in the restricted portion of a store

Retail and medical marijuana businesses are required to sell all marijuana products in packaging that’s resealable, child-resistant, and not see-through. The packaging protects children, teens, and adults from accidentally eating something that they don’t realize contains marijuana. 


Driving while impaired on marijuana can get you a DUI arrest, just as it would for alcohol. 

By law, drivers with 5 nanograms of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per milliliter of whole blood, can be prosecuted for a DUI.

Even if marijuana is used medically, officers can arrest you for impaired driving.


Keep it in Colorado! Leaving the state with any marijuana product is against the law. 

Marijuana is not allowed at any airport. 

Cannabis and young people

Youth caught trying to buy, carry, sell, or use marijuana can face a minor-in-possession charge.

This can result in fines, public service, intervention measures, loss of a driver’s license, and a misdemeanor or felony charge.

Since marijuana is illegal at the federal level and in most states, youth with marijuana charges may be denied federal financial aid for college.

Long-term effects

According to the American Lung Association, marijuana smoke irritates the lungs and may cause tissue damage in the airways because it contains the same cancer-causing chemicals found in tobacco smoke.

Daily smokers may develop bronchitis, continual coughing, and mucus buildup. 

Heavy use can damage short-term memory. For youth, it may impair mental development.

Marijuana, especially in high doses, can cause temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations and paranoia) while you are high. 

Cannabis (marijuana) use is similar to alcohol consumption in that it is strictly for adult use, requires continual monitoring, additional caution, awareness of potential psychological or physical addiction, and increased caution about when, where, and how it is used.  Enjoy your freedom to consume, but like everything else, do it responsibly. 

James van Beek is the Eagle County Sheriff. You can reach him at

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