February 21, 2024
Here’s a situation that has happened far too frequently since our state legalized the recreational use of marijuana: A pot “tourist” drives here from a nearby state to partake of Colorado’s recently relaxed laws. While in our state, they sample the wares, enjoy using them, and decide to bring home a few souvenirs.
As they drive home with their legally purchased marijuana, they engage in a minor traffic violation and a police officer pulls them over. Since they weren’t worried about legality, the person didn’t attempt to hide or otherwise disguise the weed, and the officer notices it. No big deal, right? Except that in driving home, they crossed state lines and are now in an area where any amount of marijuana is a drug offense.
According to Nebraska and Oklahoma, the sheer number of people leaving our state and getting arrested for possession since Colorado legalized recreational pot has put an inordinate amount of stress on their criminal justice system. So much so that they’ve taken the extraordinary step of filing a lawsuit against our state. Kansas has considered joining the suit as well, in what many are calling an attempt to “punish” Colorado.
While the lawsuit may seem like grandstanding by more conservative states, and some have suggested that the real solution is for those states to stop prosecuting minor possession violations, it’s not quite as simple as that. For example, even though Nebraska has decriminalized possession of up to one ounce of weed, they still have to go after many Colorado tourists because they come home with edibles that easily exceed that weight.
Will Your Pot Be Taken Away?
For Coloradans, the real question is whether this lawsuit could impact the legalization of recreational pot. After getting used to being able to use marijuana without fear of reprisal, will you soon have to worry about drug crime charges?
While there’s no way to know that answer with certainty, most signs point to recreational weed sticking around. Our government says that it will stand behind the law and protect it, and pot proponents argue that the lawsuit is essentially a nuisance complaint. If courts side with the plaintiff states, what’s to stop a state with strict gun laws, for example, to sue a neighbor that has lax ones?
But recreational marijuana users in Colorado should be more mindful about following the laws that are currently in place.
You still have to be 21 or older. Marijuana is now like alcohol in Colorado in the sense that you have to be at least 21 to use it. If you’re under 21 and caught with any amount in your possession, you can be prosecuted. Those under 18 will likely be charged as juveniles.
You can’t possess more than an ounce. Yes, you can buy it and smoke it (or eat it), but you can’t have more than an ounce in your possession at any given time or you risk arrest.
You can’t do it in public. While there’s still a lot of debate about where you can and can’t use the weed that you legally buy, one thing is definite: you can’t just smoke or eat it in public. Do that and you’ll be cited under statutes that are similar to open container laws.
You still can’t drive under the influence. Marijuana is a mood-altering drug that can slow your reflexes and alter your perception. Because of this, it’s never okay to drive after using it. People who do this and are caught will be charged with a DUID.
You can’t take it with you. Regardless of whether you are a Colorado citizen or not, you can’t take marijuana across state borders. Why? Because most of the rest of the country – including all of our neighbors – still considers it illegal.
If you run afoul of Colorado drug laws despite your best efforts to the contrary, make sure you get the best defense possible as soon as you can. Your future is nothing to play games with.
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.