The state last year legalized the possession and use of small amounts of recreational marijuana, and on Jan. 1 special stores will be allowed to sell pot to anyone 21 and older. Voters had previously approved a medical marijuana system, but last fall’s vote threw the doors wide open by requiring state officials to regulate pot like alcohol.
With several companies offering marijuana tours of the state’s high country, law enforcement and ski area operators worry tourists who don’t understand the rules will be sparking up on the slopes.
“We’re delving into truly uncharted territory here,” said Summit County Sheriff John Minor... “We do have this misperception in Summit County where people have smoked in public, been charged, and were under the perception that’s a free-for-all.”
Under the law, adults are allowed to smoke marijuana only in private. But what exactly constitutes “private” is still the subject of debate. Minor says a private vehicle on a public roads is considered “in public.”
Marijuana tour operator Timothy Vee of Colorado High Life Tours says to get around those rules, his drivers sometimes pull into a parking lot, allowing tour guests to partake of the complimentary pot he offers. Under the current laws, it’s legal to give another adult marijuana as long as there’s no direct payment for it. Vee and other operators charge people to rent the limo and driver, and hand them free pot, snacks and soda.
For $1,200, tourists can rent a chauffeured limo from Vee to pick them up at their hotel and drive them to the slopes while they use marijuana inside.
This Q&A from the state will give you some sense of that:
Where am I allowed to consume retail marijuana?
Answer - Retail marijuana is intended for private, personal use. Such use is only legal in certain locations not open or accessible to the public. Marijuana may not be consumed openly or publicly.
Are marijuana “social clubs” or “coffee shops” permitted?
Answer - No. These businesses are not permitted...
“It’s really prohibition under a different name,” advocate Rob Corry told Colorado Public Radio recently. “It’s prohibition by over-regulation and over-restriction.”
Ironically, places where smoking has been de facto acceptable for decades (concerts) could face more scrutiny because of legalization, especially if venues promote shows as being pot-friendly. In the same CPR piece, the Denver city councilman who pushed successfully for banning smoking in parks, Chris Nevitt, questioned whether much tourism was really going to result from pot legalization.
Serious pot advocates will come to Colorado. There are plenty of entrepreneurs who are working on solutions to some of the problems the regulations create. Certain hotels might allow smoking too. For smokers who already skirt the law, Colorado will be both symbolically and even practically an important change of pace.