Castle Rock decriminalizes pot possession to comply with Amendment 64

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Castle Rock town councilmembers grudgingly complied with Amendment 64, in a housekeeping measure designed to avoid legal conflict.

Town council on Feb. 5 revised the Castle Rock municipal code to bring the code into compliance with Amendment 64, which allows personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people 21 years and older.

Before council’s revision, the town’s ordinance made simple possession a crime and conflicted with the Colorado constitutional amendment passed by voters in Nov. 2012. Town attorney Bob Slentz advised councilmembers to bring the municipal code into compliance with state laws to avoid a potential legal landmine among local agencies.

The amendment to town code recognized that simple possession is permitted and will not result in legal action against anyone older than 21 years old.

The age restriction was a pivotal point in the legislation, Slentz said.

“If you are under 21, Amendment 64 did nothing for you,” he said. “There is no privilege or relief from criminal law if you are under 21.”

Of the 76 municipal citations issued in Castle Rock in 2012 for marijuana offenses, 63 percent were issued to people younger than 21 years old. Castle Rock mimicked the language from the state amendment in its revision to allow adults to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate, process or transport up to six plants, Slentz said.

The amendment removes the conflict for local law enforcement agents obligated to honor the provisions of the constitution, he said.

“This (amendment to the ordinance) will avoid putting our police department in the tough position of honoring the state constitution as well as serving your agency,” Slentz said. “(The conflict) also forces law abiding citizens to make a choice whether to avail themselves of the Amendment 64 right or comply with a code that prohibits it.”

Although Colorado voted to approve Amendment 64 by 55 percent of the vote, Castle Rock’s voters denied the measure by 52.5 percent. Councilmembers followed their approval of the ordinance to legalize personal possession with first reading of a second ordinance to ban commercial operations in town limits.

“Whether we agree with it or not, we need to move forward as best we can,” said Mayor Paul Donahue, District 1. “This is the first step to bring our code into compliance with Amendment 64.”

Youth rank as Castle Rock’s primary marijuana offenders

While the town of Castle Rock voted to remand its municipal code to uphold the provisions of Amendment 64, possession and use of marijuana by people younger than 21 remains a crime on every level, said Town Attorney Bob Slentz.

Slentz provided councilmembers a historical glimpse of the municipal citations issued by Castle Rock police over the last six years, showing a trend of marijuana offenses among the town’s youth.

Municipal Court marijuana citations

2006 - 45 total citations issued; 22 to people younger than 21, including 12 juvenile citations.

2007 – 80 citations; 42 younger than 21, 17 juveniles.

2008 – 83 citations; 48 younger than 21, 29 juveniles.

2009 – 92 citations; 58 younger than 21, 30 juveniles.

2010 – 102 citations; 74 younger than 21, 39 juveniles.

2011 – 108 citations; 76 younger than 21, 44 juveniles.

2012 – 76 citations; 48 younger than 21, 32 juveniles.

 

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