ASPEN - Pitkin County is preparing to enact its usual prohibition on alcohol in unlicensed public areas during the Winter X Games, but county commissioners pondered Wednesday whether the use of marijuana needs to be addressed, as well, given the legalization of recreational pot use in Colorado.
Commissioner Michael Owsley raised the issue. Voter passage of Amendment 64 in November and the subsequent legalization of marijuana statewide could be a complication at the Winter X Games, he said.
"I think it's something we need to start thinking about," Owsley said after the commissioners' brief discussion. "If liquor is an intoxicant we don't want imbibed at the X Games, then what are the implications of Amendment 64?"
Commissioners did give initial approval to an ordinance prohibiting possession of open containers of alcohol as well as alcohol consumption on unlicensed public premises throughout the county for the duration of the X Games, Jan. 24 through 27 at Buttermilk. There is no law prohibiting open containers of alcohol in unincorporated parts of the county, including Buttermilk, as a general rule, but the county has enacted a temporary ban during the Winter X Games each year since 2008. The move has led to a significant reduction in alcohol-related incidents at the X Games, according to the county.
The county has no legal authority under state law to enact a similar ordinance targeting marijuana use, but Amendment 64 does not permit the use of marijuana in public places anyway, County Attorney John Ely advised commissioners.
That might be a message that needs to be made clear at this year's X Games, Commissioner Rob Ittner said.
The vote to legalize marijuana in Colorado (as well as Washington state) made national news, but visitors to Colorado and probably many state residents don't know the specifics of what is allowed, he said.
"They think it's legal here," Ittner said.
It might be appropriate to make the rules clear at the X Games, Ittner said, though he did not advocate addressing marijuana use in an ordinance.
X Games organizers and local authorities already have discussed the need to get the message out about marijuana, said Brad Gibson, a detective at the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office and incident commander at the X Games.
"We knew it would be a topic," he said.
The message: "Basically, don't bring it," Gibson said.
Authorities began keeping track of marijuana-related incidents at the X Games two winters ago. There were 35 such incidents in 2011 and nine in 2012, when total attendance was estimated at 108,000 people over four days.
If people are caught with pot at the Buttermilk venue, an officer will confiscate it, Gibson said.
The state has only begun to draft regulations related to recreational marijuana. Amendment 64 made legal the use of marijuana by adults and the possession of small quantities of the substance, but public use and sale of the drug remain illegal.
The county's alcohol prohibition covers public streets, walkways and other public areas as well as vehicles traveling both public and private roads or parked in any location. At the Buttermilk venue, no alcohol is permitted or made available except in VIP areas; the ordinance is aimed at halting the bring-your-own-booze approach.
"I'm not so sure I want to create a test case over the X Games," Commissioner Rachel Richards said regarding a similar approach to marijuana.
"I think we know it's illegal to smoke in public places. That should suffice for the X Games," Commissioner George Newman said. "Next year could be another story."
"I just brought it up because I think it's a new challenge for us," Owsley said. "Intoxication has no place there (at X Games) whatsoever. That's the gist of what I was trying to get at."
Commissioners will take up the alcohol ordinance related to the X Games for a public hearing and final action on Jan. 23.