Last week, while examining the claim that passage of Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, would eliminate 12,000 Colorado pot arrests per year, we spoke with attorney Warren Edson, who said some communities set a maximum $1,000 fine and a year in jail for petty possession. A police rep confirms that's the case in Lakewood, although he says such penalties are unlikely.
"We have a city ordinance for anything under eight ounces of marijuana that someone would be in possession of, and it would be the equivalent of a petty offense," says Lakewood Police Department spokesman Steve Davis. "The maximum would be $1,000 and a year in jail, but the city attorney tells me it would be pretty unusual for someone to receive that for what is essentially a petty offense."
However, he goes on, "it's certainly possible if some kind of circumstances existed where a judge wanted to really send a message."
Possession of more than eight ounces of marijuana exceeds the limit of the Lakewood ordinance and would result in a state charge, Davis adds.
For the most part, people who are found to possess fewer than eight ounces of marijuana in Lakewood are given a summons -- similar to a traffic ticket -- as opposed to being arrested. The most probable exception, Davis notes, "is if they were arrested for a larger crime and this was an added-on offense. Like if someone was arrested for an assault and they've got a little bit of marijuana on them, and they would add that charge. But to be arrested specifically for petty marijuana possession would be very, very rare."
As for Lakewood's numbers, Davis says there were 380 marijuana-related charges in 2010 -- a total that would include those who received a summons and arrestees. In 2011, the sum was very similar: 389. And as of this week, stats show 173 allegations under the ordinance. If the pace racked up during the first two-thirds of the year holds steady for the final third, the 2012 amount will be lower that the previous two years -- around 260.
"Who knows how much impact the medical marijuana stuff has had on those numbers," Davis says. "It'd be interesting to look at them in a few years and see if there's any kind of a trend, and if they drop off."
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By the way, we've also reached out to police in Westminster -- another community mentioned by Edson -- for information about its marijuana penalties and statistics. No response thus far.
More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Would Amendment 64 really prevent 12,000 pot arrests?"