Authorities say X Games security will be business as usual
The Aspen Times
This year’s Winter X Games marks the first time in Aspen’s 14-year history of hosting the event that marijuana is being sold locally and legally for recreational purposes.
As of today, Aspen has six stores selling cannabis to recreational users who are 21 or older. Most of the stores are offering discounts and rolling out special promotions to lure customers.
But despite the availability of the drug at a time when tens of thousands of X Games spectators are flocking to the area, authorities say their presence inside and outside of the Buttermilk Mountain event will be about the same as usual.
“Now, with retail marijuana being available for the first time for a large-scale event, we don’t necessarily think there’s going to be that big of an impact related to it than there would for any other event of this size,” said Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan.
Like Aspen Police Department spokeswoman Blair Weyer — who is handling media relations for the team of law enforcement, fire, ambulance and other agencies that have joined forces to ensure public safety for the Winter X Games — Ryan said overconsumption of alcohol is usually a bigger problem during the event than drug use.
“Traditionally, alcohol supersedes marijuana as something that we end up dealing with,” Weyer said.
“With this many people together in this type of atmosphere, there is always going to be some issue in the public-safety world related to alcohol and drugs,” Ryan said. “We take the same means to ensure public safety that we always do — officer presence and educating the public so that everybody knows that events like this are drug-free.”
The X Games spectator area is drug-, alcohol- and tobacco-free. An “amnesty box,” similar to the one the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office set up at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport for travelers — will be in place at the entrance to the X Games spectator area for people to discard marijuana or cannabis-related products. The system is designed to give people an opportunity to pass through the security checkpoint without worrying about the possibility of getting into trouble with the law or being kicked out of the venue.
But this year’s event, unlike in recent years, is not completely alcohol-free. While the general public is prohibited from consuming booze at the athletic events, adults paying to attend concerts at Buttermilk scheduled for today, Saturday and Sunday may purchase as many as two alcoholic beverages within the confines of the concert setting. Safeguards have been set up to ensure that no one is able to purchase more than two drinks, according to Ryan.
In addition to private security forces at the event, outside agencies will assist the Sheriff’s Office with crowd control and other issues inside and outside of the Buttermilk area. Among them will be officers from the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office; the Glenwood Springs, Basalt and Snowmass Village police departments; and the Colorado State Patrol, Colorado National Guard and the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Inside the event, if adults are caught drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana in the spectator area, officers will have the discretion of issuing citations or warnings or removing them from the event, depending on the situation, Weyer said.
“If you look at last year, there were contacts about it, but no actual citations written for marijuana possession,” she said. “If the person’s over 21, they might just be asked to toss it or to leave the venue. It’s not necessarily illegal to have it, but it is a drug-free event.”
Minors younger than 21 won’t get the same leniency if they are caught smoking marijuana or drinking, Weyer said.
“With minors, it’s dealt with as a pretty serious matter,” she said. “It’s not something we want to condone.”
During last year’s X Games, an estimated 25 to 35 minors were cited for underage possession or consumption of alcohol. Most of the infractions occurred at the X Games venue or in the Brush Creek parking lot. They were ordered to appear in Pitkin County Court where they received six-month deferred judgments in exchange for their guilty pleas. They also were ordered to perform eight hours of community service.
Weyer added that a detox center will be set up at Buttermilk for attendees who are having issues with overconsumption of drugs and alcohol.
Total attendance for the four days of X Games is expected to top the 100,000 mark.
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