GJ, Palisade police not citing some marijuana use

By: Andie Adams and Taylor Temby Email
By: Andie Adams and Taylor Temby Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- As the details of Amendment 64’s implementation are hammered out, Grand Junction and Palisade police make a commanding decision. They will no longer be citing people caught with one ounce or less of marijuana.

"We’re within a couple of weeks of having that amendment ratified," Palisade Police interim chief Mike Nordine said. “Any charges that we make between now and then will not make it to court prior to that amendment being law."

That’s just one reason Palisade Police will stop citing those users on the petty offense.

"At this point, I’m just encouraging them not to devote their time to that type of an offense,” Nordine said.

A memo sent out to all Grand Junction Department employees outlines the decision and its implications.

Under their new policy, officers will hand out tickets if you smoke in public or are underage, and you can be arrested for driving under the influence of drugs.

However, the Amendment allows you to have one ounce of pot or less or grow up to six marijuana plants, as long as three or fewer are mature and flowering.

Now, marijuana can be sold in retail stores, but local governments will be allowed to prohibit them within city limits. The City of Grand Junction will determine if retail pot sale will legal or illegal here. However, you will still be able possess marijuana, even if you can’t sell it.

One point of confusion is still drug paraphernalia. The memo says an officer can still cite you for any paraphernalia because all is still illegal under state law, but the department expects the possession laws will be revised to exclude pot accessories.

But a word of warning: marijuana is still illegal under federal law. John Hickenlooper has been pressuring the feds to release how they plan to handle Colorado and Washington's marijuana legalization amendments.

Mesa County district attorney Pete Hautzinger says he will also continue to prosecute those provable cases brought to his attention up until the law changes.

"[The police decisions don’t] change my thinking at all, at the same time, I’m completely supportive of their taking that action,” Hautzinger said.

Hautzinger says on any petty offense case, officers always have the discretion whether to write a ticket. For now, however, marijuana still remains illegal without a card.

If someone receives a ticket for marijuana now, he or she may not be in court until after the amendment becomes law. Hautzinger says this issue could raise questions with a jury.

"We'd have to talk to the jury about that and say it may have changed now but on this day back in November 2012, this is what the law was," he said.

Hautzinger says because Mesa County residents voted 2-1 against Amendment 64, he's confident future jurors will see past the new law if someone was cited for marijuana before the law was enacted.

For now, it would appear, law enforcement will tackle that issue when it arrives.

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