Pot fine for minors could quintuple in Castle Rock

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Castle Rock City Council gave its initial OK Aug. 20 to increase the fine for minors caught with marijuana or drug paraphernalia from $100 to $500.

The proposed changes in the town ordinance, which will face a second hearing Sept. 3, would also add a requirement of completing 24 hours of community service and/or attendance of a substance abuse class, whichever is recommended by the municipal judge and prosecutors.

“It has been many years since that hundred-dollar fine was adjusted, so that no doubt needed some current review and assessment,” Castle Rock Town Attorney Robert Slentz told the council.

The change was one of three requests brought up by Castle Rock Mayor Paul Donahue at a June council meeting.

Donahue at the June meeting explained that based on research he's done, marijuana is a gateway drug. Also, since the implementation of medical marijuana, there has been a significant increase in marijuana use by teenagers in Colorado, he said.

Donahue said he wants to make the fine stiffer so teens will “think twice about possessing.” Councilmember Renee Valentine called for an emphasis on community service since teens probably would turn to parents for help paying the fine.

Donahue's two other requests at the June meeting were to consider putting the national motto “In God We Trust” in a prominent place in council chambers, and to considering repealing the town's open weapons ban in municipal buildings.

The council recently approved placing the national motto in town chambers, as well as the town's and state's mottos and the town's date of incorporation, for a cost of about $800.

Donahue's request regarding repealing the ban on open carrying of weapons on public properties will be discussed further at the council's Sept. 17 meeting, according to a statement Slentz emailed to the Castle Rock News-Press.

“No decisions or formal action would be taken then but rather we would look for direction from Council as to whether it wants to consider changes to current ordinances prohibiting open carry on public properties,” Slentz stated.

At the Aug. 6 council meeting, after Donahue suggested the weapons repeal, Councilmember Clark Hammelman commented about being uncomfortable if he knew audience members had guns, and quipped that he would “feel a little bit funny if they're sitting there with their shotguns next to their chairs … and then when they come up to the witness stand they come up with their assault weapons. That would just bother me. It might be intimidating,” he said, and laughed.

Donahue's response to Hammelman was that “the Constitution grants them that right. I'm not in the position to say we can just arbitrarily restrict that because … it makes us uneasy.”

Councilmember Jennifer Green added that there were people in the building with concealed weapons permits — and that as far as anyone knew, they might have a room of everyone carrying concealed weapons.

Hammelman and the rest of the council, except Councilmember Chip Wilson, who was absent, agreed to direct staff to research that possible repeal as well as the other Donahue requests.