The Pueblo West View

Pueblo police chief: No pot use in public

Pueblo police Chief Luis Velez points out that while Amendment 64 legalized the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana, it also gives local communities wide discretion regulating it.

Luis Velez
Luis Velez

Here’s how the Pueblo department is enforcing the amendment:

Can people use marijuana anywhere outside their home?

Velez says no.

“The amendment says there will be no open or public use of marijuana,” he said.

That means no front yards, porches or anywhere else outside a house where the public can view someone using marijuana. “That’s what I’m advising my people,” he said.

Velez added that opinion could change if City Council decides otherwise. He noted that Denver City Council recently agreed to let people use marijuana on their front porches.

“I’m certain we will see many of these questions settled in court in the next few years,” he said.

Will violations be state or municipal offenses?

Small violations will go to municipal court. More serious ones to county or district court.

“If you’re smoking a (joint) on a street corner, that’s going to be charged in municipal court,” Velez said. “If you get caught smoking marijuana on a street corner and you’ve got 5 ounces of pot on you, that’s a different matter, and you’ll be charged in state court.”

Velez emphasized the amendment allows people 21 and older to have up to an ounce of marijuana and six plants, but not the personal sale of marijuana.

“If you’re selling marijuana without a license to do so, that gets into the legal area of trafficking in drugs,” he said.

Can people use marijuana while driving?

Absolutely not, Velez said. That’s another banned public use but gets into the bigger issue of impairment as well.

“Using marijuana in a vehicle raises many more issues,” he said. “Officers are still going to cite people when they display the classic signs of intoxication or impairment, such as slurred speech or an inability to pass a roadside sobriety test.”

Pueblo city has a moratorium on the commercial sale of marijuana. Will that change?

Velez recommended the city impose the moratorium and he’s not in a hurry to change that when it expires in March.

“I think it’s to our advantage to take a wait-and-see approach on what impact this has on the community,” he said. “We’re already seeing an increase in marijuana violations among teens.”

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