Ask a Stoner: William Breathes answers more questions about Amendment 64 and beyond
Since the passage of Amendment 64, which legalizes adult possession of an ounce or less of marijuana, have you been getting questions about how it will work? So have we. To help clear the foggy air, we've asked medical marijuana dispensary critic William Breathes to follow in the footsteps of the OC Weekly's Gustavo Arellano, author of the syndicated column "Ask a Mexican!," and respond to anything readers might want to Ask a Stoner.
Dear Stoner: I get drug-tested at my job. Can I quit buying expensive fake pee now or what? -- I.P. Dirty
Dear I.P.: Maybe it's time for you to find a chiller career, because it looks like you're going to have to continue cheating your way through piss tests. Although we'll likely see more lenient policies at some companies and businesses toward off-the-job marijuana use, the majority probably won't alter their policies -- because they don't have to under Amendment 64. Nor does the amendment clarify the situation for medical marijuana patients, who still are not expressly protected in their jobs.
Dear Stoner: Can I cross state lines with pot that's legal in Colorado? -- Bandit
Dear Bandit: Sorry, but Smokey will be all over you for that one. Colorado isn't just landlocked, it's weedlocked. If you're in Oklahoma, for example, possession of amounts that will soon be legal in Colorado would get you up to a year in prison on a first offense -- and if law enforcement officials decide you're involved in sale or delivery, you could be facing up to life in prison. Our other border states aren't much better. For a first-time possession charge in Arizona, you can get up to a year and a half in jail. Utah hands down a six-month jail stint and a $1,000 fine; possessing paraphernalia there can get you another six months and another $1,000 fine. In Wyoming, simply being stoned can land you in the clink for three months. And while Nebraska has decriminalized possession of up to an ounce on a first offense, distribution charges can earn you up to twenty years in jail and a fine of $25,000.
Over the past three years, stories about Colorado cars being pulled over in places like Nebraska and Kansas for marijuana checks have become increasingly common. Some friends taking a trip through Kansas this summer were popped for going four miles over the speed limit. The first thing the state trooper asked wasn't the customary "Know how fast you were going?" It was "How much marijuana do you have on you?"
But you can fly with pot -- sometimes. According to the Federal Aviation Authority, TSA agents do not search for marijuana. But if they do find it in a routine screening, they defer to the local authority, since the TSA isn't technically a law enforcement agency. So if you're flying out of DIA on your way to Seattle with a quarter of Sour Diesel in your Dopp kit and the nosy TSA agent just has to get a closer look, he might call over a Denver police officer to enforce Colorado laws -- laws that make your pot possession legal up to an ounce (again, if you're 21 or older). Medical patients can fly to states that allow for reciprocity of marijuana recommendations, such as Arizona, Montana and Connecticut.
Dear Stoner: What about people traveling to Colorado from out of state who like to get high? Does the new law apply to us as well? -- Higher and Higher
Dear High and Higher: As soon as the amendment was signed into law, out-of-staters over 21 who are found in possession of an ounce or less of marijuana are protected under Amendment 64, which is good news for you Texans looking to catch a buzz in Breck on spring break. But as for procuring your pot? That's still up in the air. Although Amendment 64 allows people to give you pot, personal sales will remain illegal -- and there's no telling what laws the legislature may craft in regard to sales at recreational marijuana stores. With talks of marijuana tourism growing, we might see an open-door policy. But for now, your best bet will be to ask the local with dreads in the lift line if he's got a few buds to spare.
Dear Paranoid: Lay off the Super Silver Haze. Seriously, the only people who have access to your medical marijuana records are employees at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. And they are obligated to release that information only to law enforcement, and only for verifying patient status -- say, to make sure the plants you're growing are legal, or that the herb you've got on you is legal. The directory can't be used to verify whether a person applying for a state job is on the MMJ patient registry, for example.
But maybe you should be a little wary. Last spring, we reported that the CDPHE was linking directly with state law enforcement computers to give police direct access. Colorado officials have said that MMJ patients won't be auto-flagged, but some uber-paranoid stoners among us insist that police have been keeping records of people who openly volunteer their red-card status.
For those of you who are now successfully FREAKED OUT, remember that under Amendment 64, there shouldn't be any need for police verification if you've only got an ounce or less on you -- and the amendment says there will be no registry of recreational users. Same goes for growing, since Amendment 64 allows adults to grow six plants -- with a few caveats. You can only have three plants in flower at any time. And while you can keep all that you grow, you can't sell any. You can give away an ounce at a time, though. Preferably to us.
Dear Stoner: What's up with head shops getting aggro when you say the b-word in their shop? -- King Bong
Dear King: While the word "bong" isn't illegal, the slang term implies illegal things to law enforcement. Current federal law suggests that when determining whether something is paraphernalia, police take into consideration any circumstantial evidence of anyone "in control of the object." So when you walk into a head shop and ask for a bong and the guy behind the counter complies, it could be argued that he is knowingly selling you drug paraphernalia.
At the state level, things get a bit gray. The sale, manufacture, delivery or advertisement of drug paraphernalia is illegal in Colorado. But as long as you follow the new rules outlined in Amendment 64, possession of marijuana-related paraphernalia would be legal. The sale of bongs, water pipes and rolling papers for illegal use is also a no-no at the federal level, carrying sentences of up to three years in prison. And when the feds want to make a statement, they'll enforce that. In 2003, famous stoner comedian and then-bong distributor Tommy Chong was arrested as part of a nationwide crackdown dubbed "Operation Pipe Dreams." He spent nine months in prison and had to shell out more than $123,000 in fines and forfeitures.
To try and distance the product they are selling from any illegal activity, shops now label their wares carefully. They won't sell you a weed pipe; they'll instead peddle tobacco products and "functional glass art." What you choose do with that is up to you.
While I agree this is a stupid, roundabout way of doing things, the shop is theirs, not yours, and no matter how paranoid they may appear, they call the shots. While a few shop owners really don't care, most do. So as a general rule, play it safe: Fight the urge and just point at the bongs you want to see. And, please, don't walk into your local head shop announcing how much marijuana or hash oil you intend to smoke with your new piece.
William Breathes's regular weekly dispensary reviews return next week, but Ask a Stoner lives on. Have more questions about Amendment 64 -- or just wonder why marijuana and classic rock go so well together? Shoot an e-mail to Ask a Stoner at email@example.com.
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