I spent the Christmas holidays in Los Angeles, a city where medical marijuana dispensaries are as common as vegan burritos and getting a medical marijuana card is as easy as paying $40 to a guy on the Venice Beach boardwalk and saying, “Oy, my back!”
Marijuana shops are advertised by green neon crosses and they seemed to be on every few blocks – on the way to the Korean restaurant, the tamale place, the surf shop.
It was easy over the course of a few days to get used to the idea that pot is available, legal and no big deal.
As we were driving out of California and rejoining the majority states where your California card would be no defense against a pot possession charge, it occurred to me that New Mexicans heading to Colorado for a legal Rocky Mountain high will need to remember that most of the world is not a hashish happy land.
Colorado’s law making personal pot possession legal and allowing marijuana stores to open across the state, regulated and taxed by the government, took effect Jan. 1.
The Colorado law allows anyone over 21 with a valid picture ID – your New Mexico driver’s license will do – to buy marijuana at a licensed retail outlet. Coloradans can buy as much as an ounce at a time, but people from out of state can buy only a quarter-ounce at a time.
Word to the wise: Smoke it all before you turn around for the trip home because in New Mexico possessing an ounce of weed can get you 15 days in jail and a $100 fine and police here aren’t interested in “But I bought it in Colorado” as an excuse.
“We’ll surely increase our traffic enforcement and drug interdiction,” Colfax County Sheriff Patrick Casias said.
Based in Raton, his deputies patrol Interstate 25 on New Mexico’s border with Colorado, the logical return route for pot tourists from Las Cruces, Albuquerque or Santa Fe who have imbibed in Denver or Pueblo.
He said he has briefed his staff on the new law, is running extra traffic patrols and asked deputies to be alert.
Alert for what?
“People act a certain way when they are carrying illegal drugs,” he said.
Also, he said, his department has the use of the city of Raton’s drug-sniffing dog.
Statewide, the New Mexico State Police aren’t running any extra patrols in the northern counties that border Colorado, Lt. Emmanuel Gutierrez said. But anyone stopped for a driving offense won’t get a free pass if they’ve got Colorado pot in their car and a receipt showing they bought it legally.
“It’s legal in Colorado. However, in New Mexico it’s not,” he said.
Still interested in heading across the border to check out this new legal option?
If you want to take the guesswork out of the trip, there’s a new marijuana tourism industry budding out in Colorado. For a fee, they’ll pick you up at the airport or meet you in the Denver area and drive you to ski resorts or tourists spots in a smoke-filled marijuana party bus or arrange hotel and motel accommodations that are accommodating of marijuana smoking.
If you don’t want to pay for a guided tour, you can find all of the licensed retailers on a weed map on the Internet.
Bring cash because many of the Colorado outlets are not set up for credit cards or debit cards. Bring plenty of cash because your eighth of an ounce of “Charlie Sheen OG” at The Greener Side in Pueblo will cost you $50 and your “Dixie Truffle” edible will set you back $15. Some stores have prices higher than $77 per eighth of an ounce. And remember, a 25 percent tax is added.
Now, what to do with your stash of legal weed?
Remember that pot smoke is still smoke and most public places in Denver – bars, restaurants, stores – are under a smoking ordinance.
Our friends at Colorado NORML have provided a list of “Doobie-Dos” to help consumers safely navigate the new terrain.
• “DO check with your hotel, lodge, restaurant or club about their policy regarding marijuana smoking.
• “DO ski in Colorado, but be aware some ski runs are on federal land where marijuana is still illegal.
• “DO be aware of any restrictions on ‘open and public’ consumption in the community you are visiting. It varies across the state.
• “DO enjoy marijuana while you are visiting Colorado, but please don’t take it with you when you leave!”