Public pot use could be an issue

New marijuana law poses questions for law enforcement

Keywords: Poll question,

Law enforcement has concerns over the new Amendment 64, which allows people in Colorado to use and possess marijuana

One of the main concerns is no current law enables officers to arrest or cite someone for using the drug in a public setting.

Law enforcement officers prior to the passage of Amendment 64 were citing and sometimes arresting people if they were caught using the drug in public.

Because possession of marijuana is no longer illegal, police currently have no authority to enforce this mandate.

Montezuma County Sheriff Dennis Spruell said it is unfortunate that his deputies cannot do anything legally to charge people who decide to use the drug in public places.

"There is no law. Right now there is nothing," Spruell said. "It's going to be one of our worst nightmares in juggling this marijuana issue."

Spruell said he does not think the issues and problems associated with making the drug legal were well thought out.

If the use of marijuana is done in front of a minor, Spruell said a person could be arrested for child abuse.

"They opened Pandora's Box with this marijuana (issue)," he said.

He said residents could be put at risk and could possibly be punished because of second-hand smoke coming from marijuana users.

He said that this could be an issue at the workplace if there are drug testing policies in place.

The sheriff said he has concerns over his staff because a drug test could show signs of marijuana use.

"It could jeopardize his livelihood," he said.

The sheriff said he does not want his deputies to ignore marijuana users in public and wants them to tell them it is not allowed.

Spruell said all the sheriff's office and other law enforcement agencies can do is enforce the laws that are on the books.

"We will do whatever the law says," he said. "We will enforce all the laws there are."

He said the ability to smoke marijuana is considered legal and is waiting for the new law that may be put into place where people can be cited or arrested for public usage.

However, if the smoke and smell of marijuana infringes on another person there may be a statute in place that makes this act illegal.

"Until we get the law straightened out there is not much we can do," he said.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com