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Denver police Reddit “Ask Me Anything” on marijuana highlights

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As we’ve reported, Denver Police chief of staff Lieutenant Matt Murray felt the department’s initial Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session went so well that another AMA was scheduled to deal with what was arguably the first one’s most popular topic: pot.

The conversation happened yesterday, and it was definitely free-wheeling, veering from subjects like cartels and the war on drugs to restaurant advice and the whereabouts of a certain pot smoker named Kevin. Check out photo-illustrated highlights below.

CARTELS AMA question: The marijuana business has a lot of involvement from organized crime, particularly Mexican and Central American drug cartels and gangs. How do you see their involvement changing with the new legal climate?

Also, what steps will you take to protect businesses trying to run ethically from being preyed upon by these criminal gangs?

DPD: Absolutely. It is tough to say what will happen. Some believe cartels will use Colorado to distribute their products from a “legal” state. Others believe it will put the cartels out of business. We will certainly watch and adjust.

AMA question: As to the second part of my question, can you describe what outreach you will do to protect businesses trying to run legitimately from being victims of these gangs through protection and extortion rackets?

DPD: We will offer the same protection as any other business. We have investigated numerous burglaries at Medical Marijuana dispensaries — just as any other business.

Of course, people HAVE to report for us to investigate.

DISCRETION AMA question: Will there be warnings issued, as opposed to arrests? I’m guessing educating the public about new laws, etc would be better public relations than throwing someone in jail.

DPD: Officers have discretion in most areas of the law. We can cite or warn in a traffic situation, and the officers have the same discretion here. It really depends on the situation.

WHERE’S KEVIN? AMA question: Have you arrested my brother Kevin? I know he smoked a lot of weed in the past and I haven’t seen him in awhile. Is there a guy named Kevin in one of your jails?

DPD: Here is the number for the Sheriff Dept (prisoner info). (720) 913-3600.

Continue for more highlights of the Denver police Reddit “Ask Me Anything” about marijuana. FILLING UP AMA question: Does this mean that it can be sold in gas stations and such like cigarettes, given they have the right permit?

DPD: It is legal to consume marijuana in a private residence.

Marijuana can only be sold from a licensed facility in 2014. Currently the discussion is more in line with “liquor stores” (marijuana stores) than gas stations.

MARIJUANA CLUBS AMA question: Why was Chief White so eager to crack down on marijuana clubs post-ratification of A64? Was his a knee-jerk reaction? Given that the new regulations put forth by the State Assembly allow for them, have the investigations been dropped? I must say it’s tiring when Chief White (among others) are all over the press clamoring for a blank check for marijuana regulation while our existing tax dollars are wasted and unaccounted for. You were recently quoted in the Westword saying, “change the laws and you’ll change the way we [law enforcement] reacts.” Post-ratification of A64, the reaction by law enforcement interests has been predictable- redundant and repetitive testimony before the general assembly inclined toward prohibition and outright hamstringing of the amendment.

DPD: The Denver Police has not cracked down on marijuana clubs.

CYCLING HIGH AMA question: As someone not from Colorado, I do not know the specifics of Amend. 64, but am curious as to how it extends to the operation of vehicles. For instance, in some municipalities you can be cited a DUI while riding a bike. Does this apply to Colorado for operating say a snow mobile or bicycle?

DPD: It is illegal to operate boats, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, snow mobiles, etc while under the influence (of alcohol or drugs).

Continue for more highlights of the Denver police Reddit “Ask Me Anything” about marijuana. RESTAURANT RECOMMENDATIONS — AND 7-ELEVEN AMA question: OK, so as a visitor to the state in 2014 and without a medical card, I can still buy from a licensed marijuana business?

BRB, Planning vacation to Colorado next year.

DPD: Yes, you can. We also have nice restaurants.

AMA question: Restaurants are good, any recommendations?

DPD: Chief White loves Fogo de Chao.

7-11 also has good nachos

HITTING THE ROAD AMA question: If I am an adult visitor to Colorado, can I buy cannabis for consumption within the state? If so, what can I expect? If not, why?

DPD: Anyone over 21 years of age may possess and consume marijuana while in Colorado.

CAUTION — Marijuana is still illegal in most states. Do not transport out of state.

WAR ON DRUGS AMA question: Do you think CO has come to the right conclusion on marijuana policy?

DPD: The Denver Police Department does not consider there to be a “war on drugs.” That saying comes from Federal politicians in the 1980’s.

The majority of MARIJUANA enforcement performed by the Denver Police is initiated by citizen complaints.

PERSONAL POT EXPERIENCE AMA question: Have either of you ever smoked pot?

DPD: Nope (nerd).

Continue for more highlights of the Denver police Reddit “Ask Me Anything” about marijuana. RESPECT AMA question: In states without marijuana leniency, do police officers still show discretion? For example, if I (as an adult) am caught with a small amount (under a half ounce) and do not drive while high/cause a disturbance or smoke it publicly. Will most police officers let me off the hook as long as I am honest and treat them with respect?

DPD: Don’t know — legal here.

You will always fare better with police if you are polite and respectful.

BIG TOBACCO AMA question: What are the current values of the Denver Police to protect State Jurisdiction vs. Federal Jurisdictions, & is it true that the Federal Raids of local growers are making arrests to better control products & revenue for Companies like Marlboro?

DPD: No. We are not in the business or in partnership of protecting any certain company.

REDUCED SENTENCES AMA question: Will previously convicted people of charges relating to this law be released early or have their punishments reduced?

DPD: In jail? That is an issue for the courts.

Continue for more highlights of the Denver police Reddit “Ask Me Anything” about marijuana. TRAFFIC STOPS AMA question: How do you determine if someone is under the influence or within legal limits? Will you be judging this by appearance, or reaction? I mean, I know quite a few goofy-acting people who are as sober as a nun.

DPD: Traffic? We do roadside tests to determine impairment. It could also be based on how you were driving etc. This is settled law (DUI).

YO — DON’T BREAK THE LAW AMA question: Now, this question is for people under 21 but over 18. I am looking to go to Colorado with a friend of mine in a few weeks. We will obviously be using marijuana. However, while he is over 21, i am just almost 20. If I am driving can he keep the weed in his bag and if we are pulled over no one will get in trouble? Or will it count as being in my possession and i go to jail? Also, even though i realize I will be technically breaking the law by using marijuana there, would i get in a heap of legal trouble from just smoking with someone else out in nature or private places and stuff like that? Is this mostly up to officer discretion?

DPD: YO — Don’t break the law. We are the cops!

Don’t keep marijuana in a common area (like in the vehicle). Keep it on his person and you won’t have an issue.

What kind of car will you be driving? License? 🙂

FEDERAL V. STATE AMA question: What sort of interaction have you had with various federal agencies on this issue? Have said interactions been hostile/threatening in nature, or is there more a desire to find an amicable resolution?

DPD: We work with numerous Federal agencies and have a good relationship. There has not been a decision about Marijuana federally (in light of Colorado and Washington State).

Keep Westword Free. Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who’ve won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism’s existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our “I Support” membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

As we've reported, Denver Police chief of staff Lieutenant Matt Murray felt the department's initial Reddit "Ask Me Anything" session went so well that another AMA was scheduled to deal with what was arguably the first one's most popular topic: pot. The conversation happened yesterday, and it was definitely…

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Arizonans Could Cross States Lines for Legal Marijuana, but Face Risk in Bringing It Home

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Arizona didn’t wake up on Monday morning to a change in the vote-count — Prop 205’s still failing miserably. Its chances of passing as officials count the remaining votes this week are about the same as Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk dabbing a hit of shatter on the evening news.

Unless President-elect Trump goes back on his promise to let states decide their own marijuana laws, though, in about a year Arizona could see legal marijuana stores on its western and northwestern borders, or very close to them. The new, adult-use pot shops coming to California and Nevada now that voters in those states approved full-on legalization will be much closer to the bulk of Arizona’s population than those in Colorado.

In theory, cities like Blythe, on the border of Arizona and California, could put legal marijuana within a 2.5-hour drive from central Phoenix. Tucson residents could make a 3.5-hour drive to Winterhaven, California, if shops open there, or travel 4.5 hours to El Centro, where medical-marijuana dispensaries already exist.

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Las Vegas, which will have retail marijuana stores, is about 4.5 hours from Phoenix by car.

Although Colorado allowed recreational marijuana stores to open in 2014, the nearest to Phoenix so far have been in Durango, which is more than a seven-hour drive away. When California and Nevada retail shops open in about a year, many Arizonans who live near state-border areas like Yuma and Kingman may find legal marijuana less than an hour’s drive away.

However, Arizonans who buy marijuana in other states need to understand the law, and the legal consequences of bringing pot home.

Possession of any amount of marijuana is a felony in Arizona for people without a medical-marijuana card, if you haven’t heard. Felony charges are often dropped, but offenders are typically booked into a jail and hit with the choice of an expensive fine and a misdemeanor conviction, or an expensive fine and completion of a drug-treatment program.

By contrast, possessing an ounce or less of marijuana in Colorado, California, Nevada, Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington D.C. is now legal under the laws of those states. Using marijuana in public still isn’t legal in any of those states, it should be mentioned.

Troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety don’t plan any increased enforcement because of the Nevada and California laws, says DPS spokesman Captain Damon Cecil. He points out that in the past 10 years or so, Arizona law officers have already seen increased smuggling of California marijuana into Arizona. The agency plans no ramp-up in enforcement because officials don’t believe it’s necessary, and because California’s newly approved Proposition 64 won’t change how DPS “does business,” Cecil says.

“Go get high and come back,” he says. “Unless you’re impaired [and driving], you go and smoke away.”

If not DPS, then perhaps other Arizona police agencies on the borders of California and Nevada will boost their anti-marijuana enforcement on the highways leading from legal states.

Stories abound of police in Nebraska or Wyoming pulling over more drivers in recent years when they believe the drivers might be carrying weed, but it’s difficult to tell if police are targeting such drivers, or simply that more weed-carrying drivers are coming from Colorado.

“I got pulled over on my way to music festival last year because I had a Colorado sticker in my car,” a Reddit user wrote in 2013. “No joke. The cop mentioned it as soon as he pulled me over.”

“Got pulled over driving home from Vedauwoo for no reason except for having Colorado plates,” wrote another Internet user on MountainProject.com in 2014. “Wyoming cops are definitely stopping Colorado vehicles looking for pot, even on the way back home.”

Despite Cecil’s information about DPS policy, in other words, it seems possible that cops may indeed be interested in stopping Arizona-bound cars for possible marijuana arrests. Certainly, smaller jurisdictions may be attracted to the extra money these felony busts could pull in. Arizonans who smuggle weed across state borders could face more scrutiny in the future than they would now.

Arizonans who plan to bring their purchases home won’t have to worry about drug-sniffing-dog checkpoints in most areas, at least. The U.S. Supreme Court shot down random drug checkpoints in a landmark decision in 2000. However, that case left standing a 1976 decision that allows the Border Patrol to set up such checkpoints anywhere within 100 miles of an international border.

Many Arizonans who drive to and from San Diego are familiar with the most prominent of these checkpoints — the eastbound checkpoint on Interstate 8 east of Yuma. The Border Patrol checkpoint there and others in Arizona thwart cartel operations involving tons of illegal drugs from Mexico. But, as New Times reported back in 2008, a partnership between the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office and the Border Patrol has meant misery for thousands of average cannabis consumers busted at the I-8 checkpoint under Arizona’s stiff anti-marijuana law.

The federal checkpoints and partnership will continue to exist despite California legalization, says Alfonso Zavala, a Yuma County Sheriff’s Office spokesman.

“It’s still illegal in Arizona,” Zavala points out. Under the current agreement, Border Patrol agents who are cross-certified as Yuma County deputies write local felony citations for people caught by the checkpoint’s drug-sniffing canines, making the process ultra-convenient — not to mention lucrative — for Yuma County. Registered medical-marijuana patients won’t get charged, but federal agents still seize their medicine.

Medical card or not, bringing marijuana across state lines remains a federal offense. Arizonans who can legally possess up to 2.5 ounces of medicinal marijuana under state law still would be committing a federal crime by taking pot from California, Colorado, Nevada, or anywhere else into Arizona. Yet the feds don’t seem to care about such minor crimes. At Border Patrol checkpoints in California and New Mexico, which don’t have felony possession laws like Arizona’s, federal agents often merely seize any found marijuana without bringing federal charges.

Small marijuana busts by federal authorities do occasionally show up in Arizona federal charging documents — in nearly all cases, these busts involve rangers in federal parklands catching park users with small amounts of pot; offenders are charged with federal misdemeanors and fined a few hundred bucks.

Still, the feds reserve the right to bust someone for interstate trafficking of marijuana. As a chart published by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency explains, trafficking up to 50 kilograms of marijuana is a felony that might merit up to a five-year prison sentence for the first offense. While prosecution of a trafficking case involving just five grams may be unheard of now, that could change.

A complicating factor for bringing pot across state lines could be whether or not an offender is also in possession of a firearm. Arizona law says it’s a felony to possess both a firearm and marijuana without a medical card, though in reality, local police and prosecutors don’t typically try to add additional firearms charges to simple marijuana-possession cases.

As explained, people in possession of small amounts of marijuana are unlikely to be charged by the feds unless they’re in a national park, but the risk level goes up for people taking marijuana and a gun across state lines who happen to be caught in the act by a federal agent. Technically, trafficking drugs while in possession of a firearm could qualify a person for a five-year minimum-mandatory sentence. The actual charge and penalty depends greatly on the circumstance; the Border Patrol, for example, isn’t currently submitting felony cases to federal prosecutors when they find Arizonans in possession of both firearms and marijuana.

Officials from the U.S. DEA failed to return a message on Monday about taking small amounts of marijuana and/or firearms across state lines. The Arizona U.S. Attorney’s Office couldn’t immediately address the issue, either; spokesman Cosme Lopez says only that if a law-enforcement agency submits a marijuana case to the office, the federal prosecutors may prosecute it or let local jurisdictions handle it.

Arizonans who travel to California for any reason in the next few years should also be aware of California’s firearm laws. Besides the multitude of gun-control laws passed by the California State Legislature, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63 last week, making it a felony to buy ammunition without a special permit, or to possess magazines for their guns that hold more than 10 rounds even if they were bought before an earlier law in 2000.

According to Sergeant Jose Nunez of the California Highway Patrol, that means an Arizonan can now possess up to an ounce of marijuana in his or car legally in California, but not a firearm magazine that could hold more than 10 rounds. If the gun was concealed, that could bring an additional charge.

Once across Arizona’s border, a loaded, concealed firearm with a 15-round clip becomes perfectly legal, and it’s the marijuana that becomes illegal.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free. Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who’ve won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism’s existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our “I Support” membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

Arizona didn't pass legal marijuana last week, but in about a year the state could see legal marijuana stores on its western and northwestern borders, or very close to them. The new, adult-use pot shops coming to California and Nevada now that voters in those states approved full-on legalization will be much closer…