For this week's Ask a Stoner, our ganja guru took a look at the questions and answers on the City of Denver's official retail marijuana page. While most of the site's advice is solid and straightforward, some of it needed tweaking by an actual cannabis user.
It is illegal to consume marijuana in public.
This is true, and Denver police have been enforcing the law. By last week, there had been 155 tickets written for public consumption of marijuana in 2013, nearly twenty times the number written in 2012. But the reality is that public toking has been going on in Colorado since well before Amendment 64 passed, mostly because people know how to be discreet about it. What matters is being safe if you do decide to puff in public. For starters, don't spark up in busy places like the 16th Street Mall, a park with kids around or outside of a Rockies game — you're just asking for it. Finding a nice, secluded spot in an empty park or puffing a one-hitter in a huddle of cigarette smokers outside of a bar is a stealthier way to approach things. And for you skiers and boarders: Keep to the tried-and-true methods of chairlift smoking and dipping into the trees for a quick "safety" meeting. Edibles are also included in public-consumption laws. Not that we foresee many people getting busted for eating brownies in the park, but it is worth pointing out.
Ask a Stoner
It is illegal to take marijuana out of state.
Not only is it illegal to take pot out of state, but since the passage of Amendment 64, highway troopers in our neighboring states have loved pulling suspected stoners over for minor infractions that turn into full-blown car searches. And their penalties aren't very kind: You can face life in prison for having 25 pounds or more on you in Oklahoma; you'll get 2.5 years in Arizona; Utah will give you six months for less than an ounce; and delivery can get you up to ten years for any amount in Wyoming.
Only licensed establishments may sell retail marijuana products.
While licensed establishments are the only ones legally able to sell cannabis, that doesn't mean there won't still be plenty of illegal personal sales — especially if the prices on recreational cannabis creep up into the $55-$60/eighth range, as expected. We have no doubt that the pot dealers at Civic Center Park aren't going away anytime soon. But you can also grow your own herb, so bypass all of that mess and plant a few seeds if saving money is a priority.
It is illegal to give or sell retail marijuana to minors.
Yup. Just as with alcohol — and it carries similar penalties. Cannabis is decriminalized for adults eighteen to twenty, but distribution to them can still get you in trouble. If you're selling to kids under eighteen, then you need to find a better career path.
You must be 21 or older to have or use retail marijuana.
Yes, this is true — though we also know that kids will continue to experiment with cannabis, much as they've been doing for the past fifty years or more. So we'll also add that it would be wise to remove all packaging labels, just in case something you purchased should end up in the hands of someone under 21.
It is illegal to drive high.
Correct. Driving impaired on any substance, including pot, is illegal. Keep in mind that Colorado also has a five-nanogram THC limit, so even if you think you're sober (and you may well be), if cops think you're stoned, they can ask for a blood draw to try to prove it. It's not ideal, especially considering that five nanograms doesn't really imply impairment — but it's what we've got. For those who puff and drive, now might be a good time to break that habit. Also keep in mind that pot has to be in a closed container in your car.
Where can I purchase retail marijuana?
Recreational pot shops are slowly being licensed by the state, but the centers will also have to have local approval before they can open. That means that stores will be opening throughout the winter and the spring. Your best bet is to go to westword.com, where we'll be keeping an up-to-date list of center openings and closings similar to our coverage of the restaurant scene.
How much pot can I purchase at a time?
Colorado residents can purchase up to one ounce at a time (out-of-staters are limited to a quarter-ounce), and most centers will likely enact a one-transaction-per-day rule. But otherwise, the state will not be tracking who buys cannabis or how much they buy. You'll be on the honor system to keep to that one-ounce possession limit.
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SHOW ME HOW
What should Denver residents or visitors do if they see a violation of marijuana laws?
The city suggests calling the police non-emergency number. We suggest talking like adults with the people offending you with their skunky aroma and explaining your objections respectfully. You'll be amazed by how respectful ganja tokers can be right back. By the time the police get there, the joint would be out, anyway.
Where can I find out which retail stores have opened?
For all the latest on recreational marijuana retail licenses, check the marijuana category on the latest word at westword.com. So far, 26 cities, municipalities and counties have approved the sale of recreational marijuana – and most of those stores will be in Denver. By Friday, December 27, only fourteen stores had been fully licensed in Denver – but more licenses are being issued daily.