Town legalizes marijuana


Staff Writer

Possession and use of less than one ounce of marijuana for recreational purposes by a person over 21 years of age will become legal in Pagosa Springs upon the second reading of Ordinance 787; the first reading was unanimously approved at Tuesday night’s town council meeting without any discussion or opposition.

Ordinance 787 will repeal Sections 12.3.1 and 12.3.2 of the town’s municipal code as they stand now and replace them with new wording that aligns with Amendment 64.

On Nov. 6, 2012, Colorado voters passed Amendment 64, which amends the Colorado Constitution to allow anyone 21 years of age or older to legally consume and possess marijuana, while also legalizing the sale of marijuana to adults by licensed retail marijuana stores.

Amendment 64 does not affect the Colorado Medical Marijuana Code, which previously legalized the medical use of marijuana.

As it stands now, Section 12.3.1 of the town’s municipal code states, “Any person who possesses, openly and publicly displays, consumes, or uses not more than one ounce of marijuana commits a municipal offense.”

“Due to the changes in Amendment 64,” Police Chief William Rockensock asserted, “this section should be amended for adult consumption and possession, prohibiting open and public consumption and displays, as well as addressing offenses for possession of over one ounce.”

In a cover letter to town council, town attorney Bob Cole stated, “The attached Ordinance No. 787 revises Section 12.3.1 to make it a municipal offense for (1) a juvenile to possess, use, or openly display up to 12 ounces of marijuana; (2) an adult to possess, use or openly display more than 1 ounce but less than 12 ounces of marijuana; and (3) for anyone to use up to 12 ounces of marijuana openly and publicly or in a way that endangers others.

“The Town’s marijuana offenses currently deal only with amounts less than one ounce. The attached ordinance addresses amounts up to 12 ounces, to give the Pagosa Springs Police department the option of charging these higher amounts either in Municipal Court or State Court. We do not recommend that the Town’s municipal court deal with possession of more than twelve ounces of marijuana, which is a felony under the state statutes and which could be better dealt with in the State Court system.”

As it stands now, Section 12.3.2 of the town’s municipal code states, “A person commits the offense of possession of drug paraphernalia, as defined by Section 18-18-426, C.R.S., if he or she possesses drug paraphernalia and knows or reasonably should know that the drug paraphernalia could be used for the consumption of any illegal drug or controlled substance.”

Cole’s letter made the distinction between “drug paraphernalia” and “marijuana accessories,” and went on to state, “Ordinance 787 also revises Section 12.3.2 of the Municipal Code to prohibit adults from possessing drug paraphernalia, excluding marijuana accessories, and to prohibit juveniles from possessing both drug paraphernalia and marijuana accessories.”

The new ordinance will also update the definition of marijuana so that it is in alignment with the one used in Amendment 64:

“‘Marijuana’ or ‘marihuana’ means all parts of the plant of the genus cannabis whether growing or not, the seeds thereof, the resin extracted from any part of the plant, and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds, or its resin, including marihuana concentrate. ‘Marijuana’ or ‘marihuana’ does not include industrial hemp. Nor does it include fiber produced from the stalks, oil or cake made from the seeds of the plant, sterilized seed of the plant which is incapable of germination, or the weight of any other ingredient combined with marijuana to prepare topical or oral administrations, food, drink or other product.”

It took Rockensock less than one minute to explain the ordinance to town council, and when he asked if they would like him to actually read each section of the new codes or just open it up for questions, there was a long, awkward silence. Council member David Schanzenbaker, who on two previous occasions had voted “No” on continuing the town’s moratorium on marijuana businesses, said nothing.

The mayor opened it up for public comment, and again there was only silence, so he closed it to public comment.

“If there are no questions,” Rockensock concluded, “then it is my recommendation we approve the first reading of Ordinance 787.”

Council member Kathie Lattin made the motion to accept the ordinance, council member Tracy Bunning seconded, the mayor asked one last time if anyone would like to discuss the issue, and when no one spoke up, the mayor asked for a vote.

Everyone, including the two former town police chiefs — Bunning and council member Don Volger — voted in favor of legalization.