Escapes

Q:

Can I Buy Marijuana in Colorado?

I’m headed to Colorado this winter for a backcountry ski trip. I heard marijuana was recently legalized there, but I’m not sure of the details or when it goes into effect. So my question is, when I go to Colorado, can I buy pot?

Pot leaf.     Photo: Boltenkoff/Shutterstock

A:Whoa there, Shelley. I'm not your dad: You don't have to ask my permission. I'm also not a lawyer, so don’t take my words as rock-solid legal advice.

That said, no, you can't. Buying pot in Colorado is not yet safe or legal. Thanks to Amendment 64, passed by voters in the state in November, it’s now legal under Colorado law for people over 21 to smoke pot, possess one ounce or less of it, or grow as many as six plants.

But there are strings attached—and while President Obama says the feds won't prioritize pursuing potheads, the legal issues around Amendment 64 are as hazy as the air at a Phish concert.

Buying or selling non-medical marijuana will still be illegal for nearly another year. The state needs that time to set up a system to regulate who can sell pot, and ensure the quality of the stuff being sold. That means that buying weed from a dealer is still a crime by Colorado laws, and—as before—you have no guarantee of the safety of what you’re getting.

However, you won’t get busted by the police for possession of an ounce or less. The only way to get it legally, other than for medical reasons, is to grow it yourself or have someone give it to you for free (lucky you!).

There’s also the matter of where you can smoke it. Anyone who doesn’t want you toking up on their property has the right to forbid you from doing it—including colleges and universities. To be safe, consider it forbidden everywhere you go until the property owner gives you clear permission to do it. You also can’t smoke in public parks, schools, or walking down the street (kind of like open container laws) or on national park, national forest, or other federally-managed land. And driving while high is still just as illegal as it’s ever been.

As of now, pot is still an illegal drug under federal law. But the Justice Department has been almost completely silent on how it’s going to enforce marijuana sales in the two states, Colorado and Washington, that have recently legalized it. It appears that the federal government has the legal authority to regulate this kind of commerce, and the Drug Enforcement Agency can also arrest someone for possessing weed. Whether they will is another question.

To sum it up, Colorado isn't a pothead's haven quite yet. If you buy some weed during your backcountry ski trip there, you’re taking the same legal and health risks as before. But like I said, I’m not your dad, and I’m writing this with a cup of coffee filled with highly addictive caffeine sitting next to my laptop, so I’m really not one to preach.

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