Amendment 64: what it means for Mesa County

By: Christy Dimond Email
By: Christy Dimond Email

While some consider the passing of Amendment 64 to be a victory long awaited for, others say it's creating a cloud of confusion.

"This is the culmination of eight years of work to really start a conversation in the state about marijuana," said Mason Tvert, Executive Director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol.

Though Coloradans voted to legalize marijuana, it is still considered illegal under federal law. Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said this split will put Coloradans in a divide.

"Every citizen of Colorado is going to have to give it some thought, am I willing to break the law of my country?" Hautzinger said.

If you're caught with marijuana in Mesa County once Amendment 64 becomes official, Hautzinger said a local or Colorado law enforcement officer cannot uphold the federal law which prohibits the use, possession or distribution of marijuana. At the same time, a federal law enforcement officer could still charge you, even if marijuana is legal in Colorado.

"My oath is to enforce the laws of the state of Colorado and in the long run we're going to have fewer marijuana cases to prosecute," Hautzinger said. "But, that doesn't mean fewer crimes are going to be committed because unless the federal government changes their laws, it's still a crime to possess or use marijuana."

Another realm of confusion many are facing is what the implications will be for employment drug testing.

"You can't really terminate somebody or act against them if they're doing something legal off duty," said Tammy Eret, employment lawyer.

Eret said only employers whose policies require employees to abide by all state and federal laws can punish employees for using marijuana off duty. If an employer only requires employees follow state laws, it would not be legal to penalize an employee for marijuana use off duty.

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