The ski season is just two weeks old and already there appears to be some confusion about Colorado’s new laws governing personal marijuana use and possession.
According to a recent CBS Denver report, several visitors to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area have had their ski passes revoked due to public use of marijuana. A-Basin officials declined to comment about how many passes it has pulled so far this season and how ski area officials were made aware of the violations.
According to Amendment 64, residents 21 years of age and older may now possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana on their person and legally consume the drug in the privacy of their own homes. The law specifically prohibits marijuana consumption that “is conducted openly and publicly or in a manner that endangers others.”
However, it’s no secret some skiers and riders embraced marijuana use long before Colorado voters approved its legalization last year. Considering longtime and widespread use of the drug is about as old as the sport itself, ski industry officials may be forced to address the additional challenge of educating visitors about Colorado’s laws against public marijuana consumption not only to ensure skier safety, but also to protect more than $1.5 billion in annual tourism revenue.
Although Alan Henceroth, general manager of A-Basin, was quoted in the CBS report as saying the law prohibiting public marijuana consumption is clear enough, there have been calls for more education about Colorado’s marijuana laws by ski industry officials.
Despite room in Amendment 64 that allows persons or entities to take further action to prohibit the use, possession and transfer of marijuana on or in real property, Henceroth declined to comment on what, if any, steps the local mountain plans to take to ensure its visitors comply with state law.
“We at Arapahoe Basin would like to see Amendment 64 work in the way Colorado voters intended it to,” Henceroth said in an email. “The law allows limited use of marijuana and does not allow consumption in public. Arapahoe Basin is a public place and marijuana use is not allowed here.”
Even if ski industry officials announced plans about how they would better educate their customers, reports of public marijuana consumption at A-Basin also have raised questions about who’s responsible for policing the law, and whether its enforceability is practical.
The question of responsibility stems from the fact that of Colorado’s 25 ski resorts, 22 are located on U.S. Forest Service land, which is federal property and therefore governed by federal law. Federal law does not recognize marijuana as a legal substance, making its use and possession on federal property illicit.
Chris Strebig, a spokesman in the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Regional Office in Golden, said it is the Forest Service’s intention to continue to enforce the law on federal lands, including Colorado’s ski resorts.
“From our standpoint, nothing has changed from last year to this year and we’re definitely going to make sure people follow federal law,” Strebig said. “It is possible people will be cited for marijuana use and possession on federal lands.”
Possession or consumption, or both, of marijuana on federal lands carries a penalty ranging from a $250 citation and possible court summons to a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
“The Forest Service is committed to ensuring that the national forest system is a safe place to visit,” Strebig said. “A big part of it depends on our partnership with ski resorts to educate their visiting public.”