December 9, 2023
Criminal justice in Colorado has undergone some drastic changes since the state legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana in 2012.
According to a report from the Drug Policy Alliance, the number of marijuana charges for possession, distribution, and cultivation fell by 95 percent between 2010 and 2014. Possession charges dropped from 30,428 in 2010 to 1,922 in 2014, while distribution and cultivation charges have become nearly nonexistent.
However, though possession, distribution, and cultivation charges have dropped, there has been a huge increase in charges for another marijuana related offense—“public display and consumption.” Since recreational marijuana possession and sale was legalized, law enforcement officials in Denver and across the state have issued an unprecedented number of tickets for public display and consumption of the drug. These charges are up from a mere eight in 2012 to more than 800 in 2014.
Understanding Colorado’s Public Consumption Laws
When marijuana was first legalized, a ban on public display and consumption was written into Amendment 64—the voter-approved amendment that legalized marijuana in the state.
Under state law, marijuana may only lawfully be used in a private residence and certain locations not open or accessible to the public. Marijuana cannot be consumed openly or in public areas, including sidewalks, roads, public transportation facilities, music venues, sport venues, parks, bars, or restaurants.
The laws surrounding public consumption in Colorado are complex and oftentimes confusing. For instance, can residents smoke marijuana on their personal back patio? Is it okay to discreetly eat a pot-laced cookie at a concert? What happens if you’re smoking weed in your private home, and the smell bothers the neighbors? The laws also create a problem for so-called “weed tourists” who flock to Colorado in order to buy marijuana legally, but find themselves without a place to consume it.
Other Reasons You Could Get Arrested for Marijuana Use in Colorado
However, public display and consumption isn’t the only marijuana-related activity that could get you in trouble with the law. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common ways Colorado residents and visitors can be arrested and charged with marijuana crimes in Colorado, beyond public display and consumption.
Juvenile use. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess, cultivate, or consume marijuana.
Possession of more than one ounce. Possession, consumption, or display of more than one ounce of marijuana for personal use is against the law.
Driving under the influence of marijuana. It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Drivers found with more than five nanograms of marijuana in their blood content may be arrested and charged with a DUI.
Taking marijuana out of state. It is illegal to take marijuana across state lines, or attempt to take it through airport security.
Marijuana use on federal property. It is important to remember that federal law considers marijuana to be an illegal controlled substance. It is illegal to consume, possesses, or distribute marijuana on federal property in Colorado. That means you could be arrested and charged for a drug crime if you are found using marijuana in areas such as government parks and buildings.
Colorado marijuana laws are still relatively new, and there are still a lot of grey areas surrounding what you may or may not do. If you are charged with public display and consumption, or any other marijuana or drug crime, you should contact a Denver drug crimes attorney immediately. With the guidance of an attorney, you can develop a defense strategy that may help you avoid conviction, jail time, and heavy fines.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.