CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Law enforcement officers in Wyoming say they have no plans to slacken their enforcement of the state’s marijuana laws if Colorado votes next week to decriminalize pot.
Amendment 64, or “The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012,” would amend Colorado’s constitution to allow anyone 21 or older to buy or possess up to an ounce of marijuana. The amendment also would allow cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities and retail stores for marijuana.
If the amendment passed, Wyoming residents could to travel to Colorado and legally buy marijuana. Getting it back to Wyoming would be another matter.
Anybody who tried doing that would be arrested and taken to jail under Wyoming law, Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle.
“We’ll arrest them and take them to jail just like we would anyone else,” Kozak said.
Cheyenne is 10 miles north of the state line. Kozak said his biggest concern is that easier access to marijuana would put more impaired drivers on Cheyenne’s streets.
“It worries me because the incidence of DUI is just going to increase,” he said. “When I was a chief of police in Colorado, when the medical marijuana laws came out we saw a tremendous increase in DUI because of marijuana smoking.”
Marijuana use becomes particularly dangerous behind the wheel when the driver also has been drinking alcohol, he said.
Laramie County prosecutor Craig Jones predicted more marijuana possession and driving under the influence cases in Wyoming if the amendment passes.
There was an increase in such cases after Colorado approved medical marijuana in 2000. Some marijuana users believed that the Colorado law shielded them from prosecution outside of Colorado.
“I guess the main thing people need to understand is that states are their own jurisdictions. If Colorado makes it legal, that doesn’t mean it is in Wyoming,” Jones said.
Likewise, decriminalization in Colorado would not change federal law. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency doesn’t usually go after individual recreational users but that doesn’t mean such users are safe from federal prosecution, said Paul Roach, a DEA special agent in Denver.
“DEA goes after what we consider the more significant drug trafficking organizations,” Roach said. “If that catches people involved in marijuana which they believe is legal under state law, so be it.”