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New Carbondale Rules Clarify Where Pot Can Be Smoked In Town

The General

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Colorado - Recent amendments to Carbondale's criminal code ban pot smoking in "open and public" places, require that pot be grown in "enclosed, locked spaces," and provide a bit of much-needed clarity on exactly what those terms mean. The amendments, passed by the Carbondale Trustees by a vote of 5-0 Tuesday night, are meant to compliment a larger set of rules that the trustees approved in late September governing the town's emerging recreational marijuana industry.

Now that growing and consuming pot in private are enshrined as constitutional rights under Colorado's Amendment 64, the rules are also meant to regulate how close pot plants – and pot smoke – can come to the public sphere. Under the new criminal code, "open and public" consumption of pot is prohibited, and is defined as any consumption that takes place in "any private marijuana club; any place open to the general public, including but not limited to any sidewalk, street, alley, road, highway, school building or grounds; park; or an automobile on a public street."

Smoking on a private outdoor porch, however, is allowed under the ordinance, just as smoking a cigarette or drinking a beer on your porch is legal today. Smoking in your car – while it's parked in your driveway – appears to be permitted as well. Trustee Pam Zentmeyer worried that allowing people to smoke pot outdoors on their own private property could negatively impact neighbors in more densely populated parts of town, since smoke can easily drift over fences into neighboring yards.

But Carbondale Mayor Stacey Bernot said she was hesitant to crack down too hard on private consumption from the start. "I think it would be better if we deal with this as it comes up," she said. "If things are getting out of hand, maybe we can address it or it can be on a neighbor-to-neighbor basis. What may be an offensive smell to me may not be to another person." Trustee Allyn Harvey agreed, and said that so long as drinking alcohol on porches and smoking cigarettes in some public parks is allowed, he's not ready to keep people from smoking pot on their own property, even if it is outside.

And Alison Eastley, Carbondale's assistant town attorney, said the trustees could address the problem by defining drifting pot smoke as a "nuisance" under the town's land use code, giving neighbors who are bothered by excessive pot smoke some legal recourse if talking to their neighbors doesn't work. Carbondale's criminal code amendments also clarify where pot can be grown on private land, since Amendment 64 allows anyone over the age of 21 to grow up to six marijuana plants for their personal use.

Cannabis, the new code says, must be grown in an "enclosed, locked space," which means any "secured, locked or partitioned-off premises, whether indoors or outdoors, deterring access by any member of the public." That rule had initially also been written to ban pot cultivation in any place where someone could see it from a nearby sidewalk, street, or other public space. But Harvey said he saw no good reason to make the plant invisible, and he lobbied for a loosening of the rule.

"I don't think it's fair to make someone take a plant inside to hide it from their neighbors," he said. "If someone sees it in a back yard [and complains], I don't want to waste the police department's time." Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling attended Tuesday's meeting, and afterward he said that he interpreted the "enclosed, locked space" rule to mean that a well-fenced, locked outdoor area was an acceptable place to grow pot in Carbondale. "It can be in a fenced area, as long as there is not easy public access," he said.

The decision on whether to issue a citation for pot grown too openly and publicly, Schilling said, would likely be made on a case-by-case basis. In a situation where a child got into a greenhouse, ate some marijuana and got sick, he said, "We would probably issue a citation. But if it was just a neighbor complaining that a greenhouse wasn't locked up, then we would probably just tell the [owner] to lock it up," and no citation would be issued.

Carbondale's new rules also establish penalties for anyone who breaks them. Under the law, penalties could range up to a $1,000 fine or 90 days of jail time, depending on the offense. Those penalties could apply to people caught growing pot in unsecured spaces, as well as those smoking or displaying pot in public. Still, Schilling said that he expects to issue more warnings than citations at first for smoking in public.

"With [alcohol] open container violations, 99 percent of the time, we have the person pour it out, and that's all we do," said Schilling. The same, he said, would probably be true of most people caught smoking a joint in public, although the new rules also allow Carbondale police to confiscate any marijuana that a violator has with them and to issue citations. Schilling said that he was comfortable allowing the Carbondale municipal court judge, rather than his officers, to determine fine amounts on a case-by-case basis. If the court winds up fielding a larger-than-expected number of pot citations, he said, the trustees could revisit the issue and set a fine schedule for different violations.

"If we write 10 citations a month or more, that seems like a burden on the court. If that happens, we should set a fine schedule..." he said. Based on the current number of marijuana citations that Carbondale officers dole out in a typical month, Schilling said after the meeting that he didn't currently see the need for a fine schedule for pot violations.


News Hawk - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Aspendailynews.com
Author: Nelson Harvey
Contact: Contact Us | Aspen Daily News Online
Website: New Carbondale rules clarify where pot can be smoked in town | Aspen Daily News Online
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