Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Marijuana: Nebraska and New Jersey take on Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 4:46 PM

If only Colorado was more like New Jersey. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • If only Colorado was more like New Jersey.

The butthurt is flowing fast and furious among our fellow states, so let's get right to it.

First, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told a person who called into his monthly radio show that decriminalized marijuana "may come down the road when I’m gone" but "it's not going to come while I’m here." 

He then chose the baffling tactic of trashing Colorado as compared to New Jersey. Now, I've never been to Jersey, and I've never heard of a reason to do so. Still, Christie persists:
"See if you want to live in a major city in Colorado where there's head shops popping up on every corner and people flying into your airport just to come and get high. To me, it's just not the quality of life we want to have here in the state of New Jersey and there's no tax revenue that's worth that."

Anyway, Nebraska is also upset, but this is about having to arrest, prosecute and jail all those freedom-lovers leaving Colorado with their green — and they might want your tax dollars to help them do it.
In western Nebraska, Deuel County Sheriff Adam Hayward in Chappell said there is constant chatter among regional law enforcement officers — who are increasingly busy handling cases involving Colorado marijuana — that Colorado should shoulder some of the cost.

Hayward said political leaders in Lincoln don't appear to want to get involved.

“I don't know what it will take to get someone to stand up and do something to try to get some of our money back,” he said.

Attorney General Jon Bruning said he wouldn't rule out the possibility of taking Colorado to court over Nebraska's law enforcement costs, but a lawsuit was not imminent.

“We are very troubled by the fact that their change in law has become our problem, so you never say never,” he said.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Every Vote Counts to file recreational-marijuana ballot question

Posted By on Thu, Apr 10, 2014 at 3:48 PM

A meeting of Every Vote Counts supporters at The Warehouse Restaurant & Gallery on Nov. 14, 2013. - FILE PHOTO
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  • A meeting of Every Vote Counts supporters at The Warehouse Restaurant & Gallery on Nov. 14, 2013.

Every Vote Counts
, the pro-recreational-marijuana group we've been following since last year, is set to file a ballot measure that would overturn City Council's decision to opt out of Amendment 64. It could see placement on the November ballot through either an act of Council, which rejected RMJ by a 5 to 4 vote, or through the signature-gathering process.

Here's The Gazette talking to group leader Mark Slaugh today.
"The initiative has been drafted. It's ready to be proposed to City Council," said Slaugh. "This is a great opportunity to create 1,000 jobs and also the opportunity to bring in millions in revenue."

"It could be the saving grace to have pot for potholes."
The group will hold a meeting tonight at 7 at The Warehouse Restaurant & Gallery where input on ballot specifics will be solicited.

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Friday, April 4, 2014

Holder says he'd 'be more than glad to work' on rescheduling cannabis

Posted By on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 at 3:29 PM

Eric Holder speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 24, 2013. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • Eric Holder speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 24, 2013.

The Huffington Post reports that Attorney General Eric Holder today told a Congressional subcommittee that he would be happy to work with the chamber to reschedule cannabis from its current status as a Schedule I substance.

"We'd be more than glad to work with Congress if there is a desire to look at and reexamine how the drug is scheduled, as I said there is a great degree of expertise that exists in Congress," Holder told the House Appropriations Committee. "It is something that ultimately Congress would have to change, and I think that our administration would be glad to work with Congress if such a proposal were made."

The comment comes days after the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Michele Leonhart, said during a separate hearing that there was "a lot of confusion in that 296 days while they were reviewing" Colorado and Washington's legalization votes. Apparently, the decision not go after the states "actually, it makes us fight harder."

In a Facebook post, local criminal-defense firm Black & Graham — whose co-founder Clifton Black is a lead player in the local marijuana scene — cheered the news.

"The refer madness era is grinding to a halt," the firm wrote. "The prohibitionist's arguments ad nauseam no longer sway the citizens of the United States. Through prohibition statutes, our government has fueled the profits of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman and the drug cartels just as it did with Al Capone and the Mafia during alcohol prohibition.

"One thing we have learned from history is that we have learned nothing from history. Time to stop the madness. Regulate and tax just like we do with other, and more harmful, products."

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Palmer Lake rejects recreational marijuana

Posted By on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 10:26 AM

No recreational green in the leafy reservoir scenes, says Palmer Lake citizens. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • No recreational green in the leafy reservoir scenes, says Palmer Lake citizens.

Though some concerns were raised that a positive result from the marijuana ballot question might not be binding on the town, all fears were made moot last night,when a majority of Palmer Lake residents voted against allowing recreational marijuana. Fifty-seven votes separated the two sides — 538 people voted "no," and 481 "yes."

The town had originally opted out of Amendment 64, before citizens gathered enough signatures to force the vote.

The Gazette reports that it was a historic turn-out for the small town just outside Monument. Before the vote, the paper talked to Palmer Lake Wellness Center owner Dino Salvatori.

"Salvatori said he wouldn't have been surprised if it's settled with 'single-digit votes,'" wrote Andrea Sinclair and Matt Steiner. "If the recreational marijuana measure would have passed, he planned to pursue a recreational license. Salvatori, who has owned his dispensary on the south edge of town since 2012, said he estimates Palmer Lake would take in about $1,000 a day in tax revenues from recreational marijuana sales. He said 'that's a very conservative number.'"

This leaves Manitou Springs as the only town in El Paso County to allow RMJ. Later this month, it will go through the licensing process for its two shops, which expect to open in late April or early May.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Is marijuana causing your man-boobs?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 1:27 PM

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This is more a post about a press release instead of a post about larger information addressed by a press release, and the reason for that is because the March 24 note in my inbox is a warning that smoking weed may cause man-boobs, also known as gynecomastia.

The word comes from Denver plastic surgeon Gregory Buford, who's probably just looking to drum up a little publicity. (Well played.) The thought is that gynecomastia results when estrogen and testosterone levels in a male get out of sync. And, as the good surgeon writes, THC has been shown to lower testosterone in animals.

Apparently 30 to 45 percent of men between the ages of 25 to 45 experience this breastly effect, but no concrete word on whether it's coming to a toker near you.

"To what extent pot smoking actually causes gynecomastia, we don't know," says Buford in the release. "It hasn't been studied enough to yield concrete evidence to support the assumption."


"Estrogen dominance in a male has been clearly shown to increase the risk for cardiac events, stroke, and early death. In my mind, these risks far outweigh the concern I have for man boobs. My hope is that the medical profession will begin studying the potential link between frequent marijuana use, testosterone and estrogen levels and determine just how concerned we really should be."

Going on to detail possible problems with THC and testicular size, the release ends with this bit of sage wisdom: "Dr. Buford recommends that men of all ages put down the J until these questions are resolved."

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UPDATE: City appealing Studio A64 decision to Council

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 9:25 AM


Update: KC Stark says in an email that, citing a "very long" agenda, City Council will request at its April 8 meeting to have the Studio A64 hearing moved to April 22.

———Original post: Wednesday, March 19, 2:14 p.m. ———

We've been bringing you the continuing saga of KC Stark's Studio A64, a downtown cannabis social club and gathering spot for marijuana advocates, since the beginning, when Stark's landlord first received the notice to close due to alleged zoning violations.

Then, Stark appealed the decision to the Planning Commission, which eventually ruled in his favor 7 to 2.

Now, the city of Colorado Springs, via its planning department, is appealing that decision to City Council, which will take up the issue at its April 8 meeting. (It will still be on the March 25 agenda, says planning and development director Peter Wysocki, but Stark had asked for it be postponed, a request Council must grant.)

"To justify its decision to grant Studio A64's appeal, the City Planning Commission erroneously compared Studio A64 to a 'Social Club' under the umbrella definition of a '[Membership] Club' ..." reads a formal notice of appeal dated March 3. "Furthermore, by using this comparison of Studio A64 to a Social Club as justification for its ruling that the administrative action being appealed was in error, the Planning Commission exceeded it authority and effectively substituted its judgement for a judgment the Planning and Development Director would be required to make under the Zoning Code ..."

Furthermore: "The City Planning Commission's decision to grant the appeal and allow consumption of marijuana without any standards is clearly against the expressed intent of the Zoning Code, which currently establishes additional standards for medical marijuana facilities, liquor sales, and bars in Section 7.3.205 of the Zoning Code."

In response, Stark has organized a "RALLY TO SAVE STUDIO A64" and plans to organize a march of supporters to City Hall. 

"We need your voice and presence! We won the appeal with ease and City Hall is still coming after us saying we are in violation of code," reads the event notice. "Your voice is important, this is your chance to exercise your rights, use your voice, and make a difference. Please help us save this special place which is a treasure to so many of us."

Asked how many times the city has appealed the commission's decision like this during his time as director, Wysocki says in an email: "This is the first one."

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Monday, March 17, 2014

Dude rips off Denver tourists in need of weed

Posted By on Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 11:11 AM

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Coming to you live today is probably the best story on Craigslist, with a moral within for all seekers of the green: Don't do this.

Posted on Denver's list is this gem: "To the clever crackhead in Denver 'Reg-Nuggets' (Denver 16th Street )." It's about some not-so-bright friends just looking to do a little skiing, a little drinking and a little constitutionally protected partaking who were foiled by the late hour and creatively used wads of paper.

Read on, and see the link for the story's conclusion and beautiful recreation of marijuana.
Dear Reginald,

First of all, you're a dick! Also, I don't know if your name is actually Reginald or "Reg-Nuggets" the name you kept referring to yourself by. What I do know is that my friends and I were in Colorado for an awesome ski vacation and everything was going great. All of our flights were on time; we all met outside of DIA and hopped into our Marriot bus, and had drinks in our hand celebrating our yearly reunion an hour later. After many more drinks, some hilarious tear inspiring stories from our youth, feelings of utter happiness, a desire to try some of Colorado's famous marijuana crept over all of us. Into the night with a werewolf like focus we searched (on our smart phones) for a dispensary open past 9:00PM only to find out no such place existed. Franticly my friends and I walked 16th street searching for someone who could provide us with a bag of Colorado magic. After about 30 minutes of asking shady looking individuals to help us out with our quest in getting ourselves on track to travel "three sheets to the wind." That's where you appeared out of nowhere "Reg-Nuggets." 

You invited me and one of my friends to follow you into an alley to check out the weed you had for sale. While you held up the sandwich bag of weed my friend and I tried to inspect the quality of your product in the darkness; your hand holding the product darted erratically like a cat chasing a laser pointer. Your movements became even more jittery when my buddy put his cell phone camera light to the bag. Desperate to complete the final chapter of our quest we handed over $50 for the weed and at the exact moment the cash touched your hands you shouted "cops!" and fled off into the darkness that you arose from. 

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Court of Appeals on Amendment 64 applying retroactively: 'We agree'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 4:13 PM

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Ruling in the case of a woman who was previously convicted of several drug-related crimes, including marijuana, the Colorado Court of Appeals today said that the cannabis-related charge should not apply.

"Defendant contends that Amendment 64 should be applied retroactively and that her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated," reads the unanimous opinion authored by Judge Gale T. Miller, embedded below, which also upheld a charge related to methamphetamine. "We agree."

The court continues:

"In general, when construing a constitutional amendment, unless its terms clearly show intent that the amendment be retroactively applied, 'we presume the amendment has prospective application only.' ... Here, the language of Amendment 64 does not clearly express an intent for retroactive application of section 16(3)(a)," the opinion says. "The general presumption of prospective application, however, is subject to a doctrine established by our General Assembly and supreme court enabling a defendant to benefit retroactively from a significant change in the law."

It's not clear how many will be impacted by the court's ruling. Part of the reasoning is date-based, meaning not just anybody with a prior conviction is affected. Miller writes that "because defendant's convictions were pending appeal when Amendment 64 became effective on December 10, 2012, her convictions for possession of marijuana concentrate and less than one ounce of marijuana must be reversed and vacated." 

But Denver attorney and amendment co-author Brian Vicente told the Denver Post that it's a positive either way:

"It's promising that the appellate court is reflecting the reality that we have passed two constitutional measures allowing the use of marijuana," he said, "and we need to stop the criminalization of people who act within these laws."

Colorado Court of Appeals ruling by Bryce Crawford

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Reminder: Your job's not safe just because pot's legal

Posted By on Wed, Mar 12, 2014 at 4:16 PM

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The Colorado Bar Association issued a "public service" press release to remind people that yes, you can still lose your job over marijuana use. Nothing in either Amendment 20 or Amendment 64 protects workers; in fact, the latter specifically says, "Nothing in this section is intended to require an employer to permit or accommodate the use, consumption, possession, transfer, display, transportation, sale or growing of marijuana in the workplace or to affect the ability of employers to have policies restricting the use of marijuana by employees." 

It's wording like that that leaves some marijuana advocates feeling like off-duty employee use is one of the last areas where progress is needed. The CBA's release reiterates the possibility that jobs could be at risk:

"While companies can choose to have different policies, many of them choose to have a 'zero tolerance' policy," the association says. "It’s easy to understand a company saying it will have zero tolerance for employees who sell or distribute marijuana at the worksite, and you probably assume that just possessing it on the job is also grounds for discharge. Likewise, you might assume that using it on the job, even on breaks, can get you fired. But what about just having it in your system when at work? What if you used it the night before, or the month before, and it’s still in your system when you are drug-tested?

"That’s a question that Brandon Coats learned the hard way. Coats was a medical marijuana user, who, according to the facts laid out in a recent decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals, Coats v. Dish Network LLC, had never used marijuana while at work. Still, he came up positive on a drug test and was discharged."

While Coats' case is headed to the Colorado Supreme Court over lower court rulings that Dish Network was within its rights, many other locals are still vulnerable, says a separate press release from the Mountain States Employers Council.

"A recent survey by [the MSEC] found that 66 percent of Colorado Springs-based companies currently drug test their employees, with all drug tests including testing for marijuana," it reads. "Despite its recent legalization in the state, when asked, 96 percent of employers said they do not think marijuana should be omitted from their company drug tests. Because of Amendment 64, nearly 40 percent of employers even worked to make their drug testing policy more stringent."

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Relaxed marijuana laws spreading across nation

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 4:44 PM

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Like freedom, recreational and medical marijuana keeps marching on, says a new report in the New York Times, and it's largely in part thanks to voters like you.
Demonstrating how marijuana is no longer a strictly partisan issue, the two states considered likeliest this year to follow Colorado and Washington in outright legalization of the drug are Oregon, dominated by liberal Democrats, and Alaska, where libertarian Republicans hold sway. ...

At least 14 states — including Florida, where an initiative has already qualified for the ballot — are considering new medical marijuana laws this year, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalization, and 12 states and the District of Columbia are contemplating decriminalization, in which the drug remains illegal, but the penalties are softened or reduced to fines. Medical marijuana use is already legal in 20 states and the District of Columbia.

An even larger number of states, at least 17, have seen bills introduced or initiatives begun to legalize the drug for adult use along the lines of alcohol, the same approach used in Colorado and Washington, but most of those efforts are considered unlikely of success this year.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The New York Times on stoned driving

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 4:20 PM

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On Monday, the New York Times printed a well-rounded look at the intricacies involved in driving while stoned or drunk, how to catch those that do, and whether or not it's even worth targeting pot partakers.

Here's a few quick hits:

• Standard field-sobriety tests catch about 88  percent of drunk drivers, but the tests are much less efficient at revealing a stoned driver, especially a seasoned one.

• One researcher's aggregation of multiple studies yielded the theory that stoned driving increases the risk of a car accident two-fold, while a drunk 20-year-old's risk of an accident increases 20-fold. 

• Stoned drivers did much better than drunk drivers in tests of memory and math, but ran into trouble of their own when it came time to process a multi-faceted situation with sudden changes.

• One doctor think the 5 nanogram per milliliter limit that Colorado has imposed on its drivers is too high, and supports a 1 nanogram limit. Of course, the risk is that "if you smoke often enough, your blood-THC content might still be five nanograms per milliliter a day after you last lit up."

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Alcohol versus marijuana taxes (and Hick to spend millions)

Posted By on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 at 12:05 PM


Backers of Amendment 64 pitched us that marijuana would be treated like alcohol. Of course, when it came time to hand that voter-approved desire over to the various municipalities, many dressed the plant in their individual worries and fears and sent it back into the closet.

That's especially evident in the area of taxation, where marijuana is hit with state-level excise and special sales taxes, regular sales taxes and then taxes again at the local level. (Even if you're El Paso County, which didn't want to play but still wants to be paid.)

And the money's rolling in. Today, the Associated Press reports Gov. John Hickenlooper wants to spend roughly $100 million on marijuana-funded projects, giving you a basic idea of how much green the state's rolling in. Hick wants to spend "$45.5 million for youth use prevention, $40.4 million for substance abuse treatment and $12.4 million for public health," the AP writes.

For comparison, alcohol-related taxes only brought in $40 million last year, and the above charts, recently created by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, show why: Colorado has some of the lowest taxes on beer, wine and spirits in the country. (See the links below for larger images and explanations of the various taxes.)

Beer: 8 cents per gallon, 46 lowest out of 50 states.

Spirits: $2.28 per gallon, 46 lowest out of 50 states

Wine: 32 cents per gallon, 39 lowest out of 50 states

Out of the three, the foundation has this to say about Colorado's most cherished libation:

"The Beer Institute points out that 'taxes are the single most expensive ingredient in beer, costing more than labor and raw materials combined.' They cite an economic analysis that found 'if all the taxes levied on the production, distribution, and retailing of beer are added up, they amount to more than 40% of the retail price' (note that this may include general sales tax and federal beer taxes, which are not included in the estimates displayed on the map)."

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Friday, February 14, 2014

DOJ finally issues banking guidance for marijuana industry

Posted By on Fri, Feb 14, 2014 at 3:06 PM

Update: The Colorado Bankers Association rejected the rationale that the memo changes anything:
The guidance issued today by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Treasury only reinforces and reiterates that banks can be prosecuted for providing accounts to marijuana related businesses.

“In fact, it is even stronger than original guidance issued by the Department of Justice and the Treasury,” said Don Childears, president and CEO of the Colorado Bankers Association. “After a series of red lights, we expected this guidance to be a yellow one. This isn’t close to that. At best, this amounts to ‘serve these customers at your own risk’ and it emphasizes all of the risks. This light is red.”

Bankers had expected the guidance to relieve them of the threat of prosecution should the open accounts for marijuana businesses, but the guidance does not do that. Instead, it reiterates reasons for prosecution and is simply a modified reporting system for banks to use. It imposes a heavy burden on them to know and control their customers’ activities, and those of their customers. No bank can comply.

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice issued its love letter to the banking industry, letting it know it could accept legitimate marijuana businesses as clients. It tells federal prosecutors in not-so-explicit terms that they don't have to sweat the institutions as long as eight priorities — the same ones listed in an August letter stating Washington and Colorado would not be sued over pot — are protected.

Here are those:


"That guidance seeks to mitigate the public safety concerns created by high-volume cash-based businesses without access to banking and the financial system," says Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh in a release, "while at the same time ensuring that criminal organizations, gangs and drug cartels do not have access to the financial system to launder criminal proceeds. The Colorado U.S. Attorney's Office will follow this guidance. In addition, the Department of Treasury (FinCEN) today is issuing a guidance memo to the banking industry on this subject.”

The Indy did not receive a copy of FinCEN's release, so here's the Denver Post:
"Law enforcement will now have greater insight into marijuana business activity generally," FinCEN said in a news release, "and will be able to focus on activity that presents high-priority concerns."

Banks currently must file a suspicious activity report any time they suspect a transaction has a drug connection. Under the new guidance, banks would have three tiers of SARs specific to marijuana businesses dependent on levels of concern. ...

The marijuana-specific reports are either "marijuana limited," "marijuana priority," and "marijuana termination," which identifies the business as operating normally or having some measure of truly suspicious activity.

Guidance Regarding Marijuana Related Financial Crimes
by Bryce Crawford

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Federal lawmakers push Obama on marijuana

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 5:15 PM

oday, 18 members of Congress sent President Obama a letter asking him to act on his statements to the New Yorker, that cannabis is not more dangerous than alcohol, and reschedule marijuana.

"You said that you don't believe marijuana is any more dangerous than alcohol: a fully legalized substance, and believe it to be less dangerous 'in terms of its impact on the individual consumer.' This is true," reads the letter signed by Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and others. "Marijuana, however, remains listed in the federal Controlled Substances Act at Schedule I, the strictest classification, along with heroin and LSD.

"This is a higher listing than cocaine and methamphetamine, Schedule II substances that you gave as examples of harder drugs. This makes no sense."

Lawmakers also took a shot at what they view as inconsistent messaging.

"Furthermore, one would hope that that [sic] your Administration officials publicly reflect your views on this matter," the letter reads. "Statements such as the one from DEA chief of operations James L. Capra that the legalization of marijuana at the state level is 'reckless and irresponsible' serve no purposes other than to inflame passions and misinform the public."

Along similar lines, we were notified via press release that signatory Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, introduced "The Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act of 2014" which  would remove restrictions that require the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy to oppose marijuana legalization.

“Not only is the ONDCP the only federal office required by law to oppose rescheduling marijuana even if it is proven to have medical benefits, but it is also prohibited from studying if that could be even be true,” says Cohen in the release. “The ONDCP’s job should be to develop and recommend sane drug control policies, not be handcuffed or muzzled from telling the American people the truth."

Letter to President Obama regarding rescheduling cannabis

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City bans pot possession in municipal facilities, airport

Posted By on Wed, Feb 12, 2014 at 8:58 AM

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Yesterday, Colorado Springs City Council moved to put teeth — appropriately tiny teeth — behind the much-ballyhooed "ban via press conference," as Douglas Bruce put it, regarding possessing marijuana in the airport. It also simultaneously included "any enclosed building, structure, or facility owned or leased by the City" in a separate ordinance.

The gist is that a violation would be treated like a trespassing charge, wherein the person in question would be asked to either ditch the weed or leave the property. A failure to comply would result in confiscation of the cannabis and a $100 fine, with a second offense drawing a $500 penalty. Previous iteration of the ordinance included possible jail time, but that was stripped out at the request of Council.

Here's how the city puts it:
Like other trespass cases, to prosecute a violation of any of the City facility provisions, City prosecutors will prosecute the act of remaining on or refusing to leave the facility once a person is found to have marijuana in their possession or is found to have attempted to bring it past the notice signs as contraband and then refuses to return it to their vehicles or remove it from the premises. This will happen just as the City prosecutes other trespass cases. It will be the person’s act of refusing to leave or trying to secretively possess the marijuana on the facility property after being informed that they can’t possess it on that property.

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