Aspendam? Hold your fire

Jeanne McGovern
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – With the passage of Amendment 64 in Tuesday’s election, the burning question for many is: Will Colorado – and Aspen – become a destination for drug tourism?

“For me, it’s going to be live and let live. If people want to come to Colorado because pot is legal – and that’s the sole reason – it’s up to them,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. “I am not the lifestyle police.”

Rather, DiSalvo said his concern is for the public’s safety. And he believes the legalization of recreational marijuana use “isn’t going to have much of an impact on us from that point of view.”

By passing Amendment 64, Colorado became one of two states to end the prohibition of the drug. (Washington approved a similar measure Tuesday; Oregon voters shot down the question.) Statewide, the question passed with 55 percent of voters in favor. In Pitkin County, more than three-quarters of all voters were in favor.

“I work for the residents and visitors of Pitkin County, and I read that vote – 75 percent – to mean that the vast majority of the people I work for want legalized marijuana,” DiSalvo said. “I swore to uphold the laws of Pitkin County and the state of Colorado, and Colorado has spoken, so this department will respect their decision.”

But don’t light up quite yet, DiSalvo warned.

“Today is not the day to start smoking, though,” he said Wednesday.

Amendment 64 must still be ratified by the governor, which must happen within 30 days of the election. After that, the part of the amendment related to individual behavior goes into effect. But with regard to the sale and regulation of pot, things are a bit more complicated. The amendment calls for the adoption of state regulations for the recreational marijuana industry by July 1; the Legislature is to enact the excise tax and plan for its collection by Jan. 1, 2017.

And once all the wrinkles are ironed out, there will be laws – which DiSalvo said his officers will enforce – about its use. Among other things, Amendment 64 states that buyers must be 21 years old, public smoking is prohibited and driving under the influence remains illegal.

Nevertheless, the social-media buzz is all about the legalization of pot in Colorado, leaving politicians and business leaders across the state wondering where to go next with the state’s newest “industry.”

In Aspen, the answer remains to be seen. In other words, don’t expect a new “Rocky Mountain High” ad campaign any time soon.

“It’s too soon to comment, as we at ACRA have not even discussed it yet,” said Debbie Braun, president of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association. “We have a strategic planning session at the end of the month, and I am sure it will come up at that time.”


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