Last week, while examining the claim that passage ofAmendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act
, wouldeliminate 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."
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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.
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"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."
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?"