As a criminal defense attorney in Arizona, I was paying particularly close attention on January 1, 2014, when Colorado became the first state in the Union to permit the legal use of recreational marijuana. In amending their state constitution, Colorado voters declared that:
In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes, and individual freedom, the people of the state of Colorado find and declare that the use of marijuana should be legal for persons twenty-one years of age or older and taxed in a manner similar to alcohol.
Legal marijuana, however, does not mean unlimited marijuana in either quantity or available locations for its use. Relying on health and public safety concerns, the Colorado Constitution imposes the following restrictions:
- Individuals will have to show proof of age before purchasing marijuana.
- Selling, distributing, or transferring marijuana to minors and other individuals under the age of twenty-one shall remain illegal.
- Driving under the influence of marijuana shall remain illegal.
- Possession is limited to one ounce or less (which is why Colorado residents can only purchase one ounce at a time).
- Open or public consumption is prohibited. (In fact, you cannot even smoke marijuana at the store where you buy it.)
- Property owners, including all employers, schools, and hospitals, can prohibit marijuana use on their property, and many have already done so (including the Denver airport).
See, Colo. Const. Art. XVIII, §§ 16(1)(b); 16 (3)(a) and 16(6) (2013).
Not only are all out-of-state visitors prohibited by Colorado law from taking Colorado marijuana out-of-state but, more importantly, non-residents may only purchase up to ¼ of an ounce at a time. See, C.R.S. § 12-43.4-402(3)(a).
Because I am an Arizona criminal defense attorney, Colorado’s new marijuana laws have generated an onslaught of verbal and email queries from former, current and potential clients. Although the phraseology differs somewhat, these questions generally focus on three main topics:
Question #1: Because I can buy it legally in Colorado, can I bring it back home to Arizona?
The answer is NO. Not only does Colorado law prohibit you from leaving Colorado with your left-over Colorado marijuana, but unless you possess a medical marijuana card, Arizona law prohibits your from bringing any Colorado marijuana into Arizona.
Question #2: Are there any ways I can get arrested in Arizona for marijuana I consumed in Colorado?
The answer is YES, because marijuana metabolites remain in the blood stream for several weeks. Marijuana metabolites are the remnants of tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly known as THC – the physiologically active component of marijuana) in the bloodstream after the body has gone through the process of breaking down the drug. Even after the body is no longer feeling the effects of THC, there are still modified remnants of it flowing through the bloodstream. As a result, DUI marijuana and violation of Arizona probation are two possible methods for an Arizona arrest based on marijuana consumed while in Colorado.
Questions #3: I love the outdoors. Will I be able to smoke marijuana in Colorado’s mountain parks and forests?
The answer is NO. In addition to marijuana still being illegal under federal law (which automatically excludes all national parks and forests), as previously noted, Colorado law prohibits all public consumption.
If you are an Arizona resident who plans on visiting Colorado and consuming marijuana while there, you should understand all of Colorado’s laws, rules, and risks that might exist when you return to Arizona. If you have any questions, I am an experienced criminal defense attorney available 24/7, please give me a call at (480) 833-2341.