Marijuana enthusiasts wanting to light up a joint outside on the Riverwalk come Jan. 1 might need to reconsider.
The Breckenridge Town Council voted on the first reading of two ordinances regarding recreational marijuana at the Tuesday Sept. 24 regular meeting. The ordinances will go into effect if they are approved after the second reading at the next meeting Oct. 8.
An omnibus Amendment 64 Regulation Ordinance includes amendments modifying the town’s current smoking and open container ordinances to include marijuana. It also modifies the drug paraphernalia ordinance to accommodate Amendment 64 provisions, and details specific marijuana offenses.
Those offenses include: consuming, using, purchasing or transporting marijuana to violations for those under age 21, and open and public display or consumption of marijuana by those over age 21.
The ordinance also prohibits the burning, smoking, inhaling of vapors, or any other form of consumption of marijuana in any place of business and consumption of marijuana in a motor vehicle.
The council discussed a part of the ordinance that would have prohibited the consumption of marijuana on private property if the act was visible from a public street.
“I don’t want my son smoking pot in the house, I’d rather he go out back,” Councilman Mike Dudick said.
Council members said because of the number of different neighborhoods and residences, it didn’t seem to fit the spirit of the law to limit consumption on private property.
So, at the work session, town council agreed to remove the following language before the first reading Tuesday night: “The exterior balconies, decks, lawns, grounds, outdoor recreational areas, and other outdoor portions of residential structures not constituting rooms designed for actual residence if visible from a public street, sidewalk or alley by a person of normal visual acuity.”
Dudick said he believed the council should be regulating public marijuana consumption along the lines of tobacco smoke.
“There should be no difference between cigarette smoking and smoking marijuana or drinking a beer,” Dudick said. “We aren’t saying people can’t drink a beer on their balcony or in their yard.”
Mayor John Warner also expressed concerns about where people could consume marijuana and if things like e-cigarettes or vaporizers were an issue.
Councilman Mark Burke agreed with Dudick, stating: “To me, public space is not private property that can be viewed by the public.”
Police Chief Shannon Haynes reassured the council that public consumption will be illegal no matter what method people use.
However, Councilwoman Wendy Wolfe had concerns about edible forms of marijuana, which she said would be difficult to tell apart from regular food or drink.
“What happens if it’s a brownie, or a gummy bear?” she asked.
The council agreed having regulations in place would help police make those determinations in the future. These regulations do not have a specific deadline and do not have to be approved before Oct. 1.
The Residential Growing of Marijuana Ordinance offers a limited number of edits to the current Residential Growing Ordinance, established for medical marijuana. The changes do not change the intent or implementation of the current ordinance, and serve primarily to clean up the current language.
In accordance with Amendment 64, this ordinance follows state guidelines allowing individuals to have up to six marijuana plants, but allows for no more than 12 plants in a residential structure at any one time, “regardless of the number of persons occupying the residence.”
The council unanimously approved the first reading of both ordinances — implementation of Amendment 64 and residential growing of marijuana. Councilman Gary Gallagher was not present at the meeting.
“There should be no difference between cigarette smoking and smoking marijuana or drinking a beer. We aren’t saying people can’t drink a beer on their balcony or in their yard.” Mike Dudick, Breckenridge Town Council member