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January 7, 2013
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Law enforcement agencies change tactics slightly regarding marijuana

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado - It is now legal for adults to possess and use marijuana in Colorado, and local law enforcement agencies say they have adjusted their policies regarding arrests for small amounts.

Colorado voters passed Amendment 64 to the state Constitution on Nov. 6, making it legal for adults to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana in the state.

Officials at various levels of government have highlighted the need to craft new laws to codify the rights contained in Amendment 64.

This need, coupled with uncertainty about exactly how officers should react to the amendment, make it likely that the legalization picture will not be clear any time soon.

Meanwhile, local law enforcement agencies seems to be taking the new law in stride.

"Yes, we have changed our policies," said Rifle Police Chief John Dyer. Rifle police will no longer be hauling someone into the station for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana, as long as they are 21 or older.

"We haven't changed the ordinances yet," Dyer said. Rifle will wait to see how the state Legislature and federal government handle things.

Possession and use of marijuana remains a federal crime.

But President Barack Obama told ABC News interviewer Barbara Walters in mid-December that federal agencies would not be "going after recreational users in states that have determined that it's legal."

Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, reached on Friday while he was in Grand Junction, sent to the Post Independent an email about the issue that he had sent out as a memo to his staff on Dec. 12.

"From an optimistic standpoint," Vallario's memo stated, "our new constitutional amendment makes very little change in the current law and our enforcement practices."

The biggest change, Vallario wrote, is that what was considered a petty crime, with a $100 penalty, is now legal.

What has not changed are criminal liability for driving under the influence of drugs, including marijuana, possession of more than the allowed amount of up to six plants, and possession by anyone under 21.

"Public consumption is still a crime," Vallario stated. "The new law allows a person to smoke weed only in private locations."

Vallario added, "It is still illegal federally, although I have no hope that the feds will do anything about this illegal amendment."

Vallario told his staff to enforce marijuana laws "as we always do. If we have probable cause that a crime is/was committed, we act accordingly. We will not try to second guess what the DA or the courts or the Legislature or the federal government will do."

Chiefs of police in several towns in Garfield County were not available for comment on Friday.

New Castle Mayor Frank Breslin said the Town Council discussed the topic at its first meeting of the year, on Jan. 2.

Breslin said the council has asked for, but not yet received, a recommendation on the issue from Police Chief Chris Sadler.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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The Post Independent Updated Jan 7, 2013 01:16AM Published Jan 7, 2013 01:15AM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.