Law enforcement face tough choices on 64

Posted 12/26/12

The official passage of Amendment 64 could present some difficult choices for law enforcement officials charged with prosecuting and handling …

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Law enforcement face tough choices on 64

The official passage of Amendment 64 could present some difficult choices for law enforcement officials charged with prosecuting and handling marijuana cases that once mirrored federal abolition laws.
The constitutional amendment, which was signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper on Dec. 10, added a section to Article 18 that legalized the growth, transport and sale of marijuana for recreational use.
The voter-approved amendment also permits anyone 21 or older to possess and consume up to 1 ounce of marijuana and allows for the operation of marijuana retail stores, manufacturing facilities and testing facilities statewide.
Hickenlooper also signed an executive order that same day to create the 24-member Task Force on the Implementation of Amendment 64 and charged it with “coordinating and creating a regulatory structure that promotes the health and safety of the people of Colorado.”
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, and Adams and Broomfield County District Attorney Don Quick both expressed hope that the committee will create some clear guidelines by the designated Feb. 28 deadline, but said there will be many unclear or unknown variables in play until that time.
Storey and Quick said neither of their offices had heavily pursued low-level marijuana possession charges in the past. In some cases, they said both offices usually issued citations for these low-level offenses in which offenders would pay about $100 in fines unless it was coupled with other serious offenses.
Storey said his office will continue to aggressively pursue marijuana distribution and public consumption offenses even after his eight-year tenure ends on Jan. 8.
However, he said, it may be problematic to determine what specific offenses may violate Amendment 64.
He also said the new marijuana laws may also create further intoxication hazards on the state’s roads.
“It’s not very well thought out in my mind,” Storey said. “There are so many intended consequences here.”
Storey said the idea of incorporating the regulation into the state’s constitution was short-sighted, because it will require a two-thirds majority in the Senate and House of Representatives to propose an amendment.
Quick said his office will most likely dismiss the small number of cases where marijuana possession of small amounts was the sole offense, but will continue to prosecute cases where possession is combined with other charges, such as domestic violence, driving under the influence and driving under restraint.
“There are a number of questions about how it all fits together,” Quick said. “It’s a very complicated statute, so unfortunately, it’s going to take some time to flesh out what 64 does or doesn’t do.”
Storey and Quick said they are concerned that residual Amendment 64 effects may mirror those experienced by the legalization of medical marijuana, such as an increase drug cartel activity.
But, what troubles both district attorneys the most is the resounding message sent to children and businesses.
“We spend billions of dollars in health advertisements about the dangers of cigarette smoking, but we’re saying this is an OK thing to do,” Storey said. “There are a lot of detrimental, collateral impacts here – much more so than what law enforcement will be dealing with.”
amendment 64, don quick, scott storey, john hickenlooper


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