A Friendly Reminder for Stoners in Colorado and Washington
During the November 2012 election, voters in two U.S. states – Colorado and Washington – approved legislation that effectively overturned regulations concerning the usage and possession of marijuana. Colorado’s Amendment 64 and Washington’s Initiative 502 both allow any resident 21 years or older to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana from a designated pot dispensary and carry it on their person at all times without being subject to search, seizure or arrest. Furthermore, A64 permits property owners to cultivate up to six cannabis plants in his or her home (at this time, I-502 does not honor this agreement). Washington’s initiative went into effect yesterday, while Coloradans should be able to enjoy legal weed within the next month.
These rulings are unprecedented; while more than a dozen states have passed laws in favor of marijuana for medicinal use, Washington and Colorado are the first to make the move toward complete decriminalization. But before you and your bros head outside to burn one under the sun, you may want to read the fine print.
See, the sticking point to both of these state initiatives is they are just that – state initiatives. Meanwhile, smoking pot (or even just possessing it) on federally protected lands, including national parks and national forests, is illegal and punishable in court. The same goes for privately owned recreation areas that fall within federal parameters, including most ski resorts. And considering that both states defied orders from the Drug Enforcement Agency in order to pass their respective initiatives, expect these rules to be enforced.
If you believe that smoking weed on non-federal land is a safer alternative, then you’d be wrong there too. Under both A64 and I-502, marijuana (like alcohol) cannot be consumed in any outdoor public location — no parks, alleys, Krispy Kreme parking lots or otherwise non-residential areas that fall within municipal jurisdiction. You can’t even open a baggie of weed in a public place. Furthermore, lighting your bong (or other preferred device) is also prohibited in any location where smoking tobacco is already banned – like, say, that apartment you’re renting.
While the nature trail on your campus may seem like a safe alternative, you may want to reconsider – especially if you’re under 21. Both states plan to enforce the “zero tolerance” policy that currently applies to alcohol, whereby minors can get in a lot of trouble and potentially lose scholarships and/or student loans. College campuses also plan to maintain their staunch anti-pot stance, and violating this rule could get you expelled — or at the very least, kicked out of the dorms.
Finally, law enforcement officials in both states would like to remind residents that driving while high is still illegal. If you are pulled over while operating a vehicle and the officer suspects you’ve been puffing the magic dragon, he’ll subject you to the same sobriety test as a drunk driver. If marijuana use is suspected, a court order to draw your blood may be issued. In Washington, drivers will receive a DUI citation if their test results show more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood, which indicates they smoked within the last three hours. In Colorado, no new provisions have been made to state drunk-driving laws.
There’s no doubt that A64 and I-502 were game-changers, but the new legislation has hardly transformed either Colorado or Washington into a rules-free stoner haven. So be smart this winter – because unless you’re inside a private residence, smoking pot is still illegal.