Breckenridge police chief thinks marijuana arrests may actually go up after vote to decriminalize pot

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Yesterday, Sensible Breckenridge's Sean McAllister, speaking about the passage of ballot initiative 2F, a marijuana decriminalization measure in his hometown, bristled at a media claim that the action was mostly "symbolic," adding, "The police chief in Breckenridge has said he'll take it as direction about how the voters want to go." Later, he maintained that "all arrests and convictions in the town of Breckenridge will stop. No one can be charged, prosecuted and have a criminal conviction paid for through the taxpayer dollars in Breckenridge. If someone is arrested there, they could be sent over to the county, which is funded by state tax dollars, but we don't expect that to happen."

When asked about these statements, Breckenridge Police Chief Rick Holman echoes some of them but contradicts a number of others -- including the notion that City of Breckenridge prosecutions for weed are officially a thing of the past. "I actually think the violations will increase," he says, "because people will think they can walk up and down Main Street smoking marijuana. And that's not what 2F did."

When discussing the potential repercussions of a 2F passage with McAllister prior to the election, "I said we would exercise discretion," Holman goes on. "And what I meant by that is that we would pay attention to the intent of 2F, which was about the private use and possession of marijuana. The idea is that these are people in their homes, and it's their choice if they want to do that. And we've already exercised huge discretion, like a lot of law-enforcement officers do when they're in a home and the occupant remembers their pipe and bong are on the coffee table, because they think of it as part of the furniture and they forget about it. We usually look the other way in cases like that."

Now, he thinks additional problems could crop up "because of the confusion over people thinking marijuana is legal in Breckenridge. The vote decriminalized it, but there's no public use. Now, Sean McAllister was quoted in the Summit Daily News saying people who aren't hurting anyone should be left alone, and I agree with Sean 100 percent on that. But if people are trying to stretch the intent of 2F and do things they shouldn't be doing, there are still tools that are available to us, and depending on what's going on, we could take action."

Holman wants to honor the will of Breckenridge voters as much as he can, which is why he looks upon 2F as something of a "litmus test" that officers should consider before deciding who to bust and for what. But it doesn't change Colorado or U.S. laws -- and he says McAllister understands that as well as he does. "In my personal conversations with Sean, he told me, 'Rick, we realize this is somewhat symbolic in nature and it doesn't really change the fact that it's still a state and federal violation' -- although changing that is obviously one of the goals for Sensible Colorado and Sensible Breckenridge. They weren't successful at changing things at a state level, so they're going to chip away at the local level."

In the meantime, Holman expects to spend plenty of time explaining the limits of 2F. "You can't believe some of the phone calls I've been getting," he says. "One guy wanted to know if was okay to open a pot-and-coffee shop."

Not yet, my friend. But maybe someday.

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