FARMINGTON — San Juan County police said they won't cut pot smokers any slack if they are caught — even if they scored their weed in Durango, legally.
“It doesn't change anything in New Mexico,” Region II Narcotics Task Force Agent Jeff Browning said. “People still can't drive impaired and they can't bring it back to New Mexico.”
Voters in Colorado passed an amendment on Election Day that makes it legal for people 21 or older to buy, use and share small amounts of marijuana. But turning the amendment into law is raising questions among the different layers of government on both sides of the Colorado border, police and potential business owners looking to cash in on legal pot, which is still against federal law.
“A lot of people are thinking about the different ways to do business related to cannabis,” Stuart Prall, a Durango attorney, said. “But everybody's still so up in the air right now.”
The amendment says local governments can regulate the sale of marijuana. Governments have the ability to pass regulations on where and when marijuana can be bought and sold and who can sell it, according to the eight-page amendment.
It's unclear how the city of Durango will act if the amendment remains unchallenged. The Durango city manager and attorney declined to comment on Tuesday.
Prall said the businesses that stand the most to gain from the amendment appear to be existing medical marijuana dispensaries, which could see their potential clientele sky rocket overnight.
But bars that create a marijuana lounge, hotels with weed-friendly rooms and any Colorado business that benefits from tourism could take advantage of the market, he said.
Could Durango become the Amsterdam of the southwest? Not immediately.
Durango police said Tuesday that the department will continue to cite people for possession of marijuana until they hear otherwise.
“There's still a lot of work to be done before it takes effect,” Durango police Lt. Ray Shupe said of the amendment. Marijuana “is still unlawful.”
It's not clear when the amendment will become part of the Colorado Constitution, but state officials have said they will respect the voters' wishes.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers released a statement the day after the amendment passed that said although he is strongly against legal marijuana he will “move forward in assisting the pertinent executive branch agencies to implement this new provision in the Colorado Constitution.”
The amendment doesn't prohibit out-of-state adults from purchasing marijuana in Colorado, which raised concerns among San Juan County police about people driving back from Durango with pot, or high.
San Juan County enforcement officials said they are waiting to see how the amendment will take shape in Colorado, said Neil Haws, the director of the Region II Narcotics Task Force, which a regional drug-enforcement agency in San Juan County.
Haws said one of his concerns with the amendment is that it could increase people driving while impaired if they get high legally and then drive back to San Juan County.
The amendment specifically states it is not intended to allow people to drive under the influence of marijuana or help underage people have access to marijuana.
Haws said people can be charged with the same crime if they are driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol.
If people can drive up to Durango to get high in the future, “hopefully they'll stay in a hotel,” Haws said.