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CO: Marijuana law is ‘get out of jail free’ card

By   /   November 19, 2012  /   7 Comments

By Gayle S. Putrich | Colorado Watchdog

PRO-POT VOTE: People celebrated the passage of Amendment 64 on Nov. 6 in Colorado. Since then, district attorneys have been announcing efforts to cut back on charges related to marijuana possession. AP Photo

Colorado voters’ Nov. 6 decision to legalize marijuana in the state is working as a “get out of jail free” card for some.

Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett was the first to announce on Nov. 14, via Twitter, that his office is dismissing pending marijuana possession and paraphernalia cases involving less than 1 ounce of weed for defendants older than 21.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey — who opposed Amendment 64 during the election — followed suit days later, saying prosecutors in Denver will no longer charge those older than 21 caught with an ounce of marijuana or less and that current cases are being reviewed with an eye to the upcoming change. The change to the state constitution had the support of 67 percent of Denver voters; about 55 percent of voters statewide voted to make marijuana legal.

About 70 Denver cases could be affected by Amendment 64’s changes, said Lynn Kimbrough, Morrissey’s spokeswoman.

But Kimbrough also said not all Denver possession cases will be dropped automatically. Those who have been cited still must show up to court and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis — and cases for those underage or that involve more charges than possession are unlikely to just disappear in a puff of smoke, she said.

And nothing about Amendment 64 is retroactive, so those who have pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a fine must still do so.

Marijuana has been on its way toward decriminalization in Denver for a while. A change in local law seven years ago reduced being caught with an ounce or less to being on par with a traffic ticket for those older than 21, she said.

Kimbrough also warned that legalization under Amendment 64 doesn’t mean it’s OK to get high out on the streets of the Mile-High City.

“You can’t smoke it out on the sidewalk or anything like that,” she said. “We still have a state law banning public consumption.”

Amendment 64 makes it legal to possess marijuana in the amount of 1 ounce or less by those 21 and older and to grow up to six plants, three mature and three immature, in a locked space.

In some Colorado locales, such as Weld County, officials who remain opposed to Amendment 64 plan to keep prosecuting offenders until the change officially goes into effect, according to the Daily Camera.

Plus, the paranoia has set in for some. How the federal government will enforce the marijuana law remains unclear, and Colorado News Agency columnist Peter Blake predicts it won’t be long before the voters’ decision is flipped by the feds.

“We’ll be lucky if the issue is settled in court and not in the streets by FBI agents and federal troops,” he writes.

But members of Congress, lead by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-District 1, are working to keep the drug legal in states where voters have made their pro-pot voices heard. She introduced a bill Nov. 16 that would exempt states that pass marijuana legalization legislation from the federal Controlled Substances Act.

It’s a matter of state’s rights, DeGette said Friday.

“In Colorado we’ve witnessed the aggressive policies of the federal government in their treatment of legal medicinal marijuana providers,” she said. “My constituents have spoken and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens.”

DeGette’s is joined in her effort by representatives from other states, including Oregon where a vote to legalize weed failed this year 54 percent to 46 percent, and even members of the Colorado delegation who opposed Amendment 64.

“I voted against Amendment 64 and I strongly oppose the legalization of marijuana, but I also have an obligation to respect the will of the voters given the passage of this initiative, and so I feel obligated to support this legislation,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-District 6.

Contact Gayle Putrich at gsputrich@yahoo.com.

Edited by Therese Umerlik, Tumerlik@watchdog.org.

 

 

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Tori Richards is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter who has covered some of the biggest news in the world during her 25 years in the business. She has also won a dozen national and local writing awards for her coverage of the judicial system. Richards has worked for CBS News, Bloomberg, Reuters. Agence-France Presse, the NY Post, the NY Times and The Daily among others. Her work has also appeared on CNN.com, FoxNews.com and US News & World Report. Some of her biggest stories included the cases of OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, the Aryan Brotherhood and the Night Stalker.

  • jway

    Alcohol is significantly more harmful and more addictive than marijuana. We need to tell our legislators that we support them legalizing marijuana like wine at the federal level and giving people the right to switch from the more harmful drug, alcohol, to the less harmful drug, marijuana.

  • oddox

    Right on. I live in Florida where weed is still a felony. Come to think ofit everything is a felony in Florida. Do not come here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/COMMJPatient Colorado Mmj Patient

    Feds in the streets busting people for cannabis??? Get real Peter Blake. You need to take off your tinfoil hat.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/WD34S4USVBD4NVASYJ647YRYXQ wtfk

    Props to the DAs for recognizing that there’s no point in clinging to failed policy when the new policy is on its way in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nancy.b.patterson Nancy Patterson

    I’m a Floridian as well. I agree with your statement: don’t come here. Well……until it’s legalized. If that ever happens.

    Actually, I read an article that there are a lot of senior citizens smoking. They say it helps with all kinds of ailments. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001808571452 SecondChance Bailbonds

    Yes the legalization of Marijuana is bad for
    my line of work but we are people of principles and morals. I can’t
    stand seeing or hearing those self righteous drunks talk about how pot is a gateway
    drug as they are dragging away on there cancer sticks. I Thought we were free in the great USA to decide what we want even if it’s drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes as long as we are of legal age and do not hurt anyone or ourselves so why the problem?

    then They have the audacity to mention how our kids our going to suffer
    when it’s legalized…Please your giving them a criminal record now to everyone now over pot how much more damage can you do. If you say well that’s the choice they made well then that’s exactly the point, by the way our youth also made the choice of fighting for our country knowing they may die.
    Kids have nothing to do with the legalization of marijuana. What happens
    when kids buy beer underage? Is it not dealt with by law enforcement.
    FLORIDA stop making money off of our citizens and legalize it instead of
    making criminals of your consenting adult voters

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Steve-Brown/100000249971116 Steve Brown

    Every penny saved from legalizing pot should be spent to stop terrorism against our country. 9-II is proof that we have an enemy that has one goal and that is to destroy our nation by using our laws against us. This enemy is united and willing to die for their cause. They(The Enemy) will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER ,NEVER Co-exist with the people and laws of our great USA. This enemy is 2 billion strong and they all play on the same team, and the name of their team is the (DTIs= Destroy the infidels) . My fear is that todays youth is so brainwashed into thinking that our enemies are not really our enemy, and that everybody wants to live in peace to CO-EXIST. But this is not reality. Our enemy looks at these young college peace lovers like a goat that will soon be slaughtered. How about taking the state of Colorados marijuana revenue and giving prizes to our young college students. Prize 1. A free 2 week all expenses paid trip to Sadia Arabia. prize 2. all expenses paid vacation to Afghanistan, and 3. All expenses paid trip to Iran. All three trips will give the young ”Coexisters”front row seats at the Sharia Law penalty demonstrations, where punishment is; swift, just , according to the law os Sharia.