No drug charges under proposed marijuana ban at city facilities in Colorado Springs

February 10, 2014 Updated: February 10, 2014 at 9:55 pm
photo - File - In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, marijuana matures at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver.
File - In this Dec. 5, 2013 file photo, marijuana matures at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver. 

If a person gets caught with pot in a city building or at the Colorado Springs Airport they will not be charged with a drug related offense or face jail time if a proposed City Council ordinance is approved Tuesday.

Possession of marijuana is banned from all city buildings and from the airport. But some council members don't think a person ought to be thrown in the clink if they have an ounce or less of marijuana in their pockets, purse or brief case. Council members want a person to be given the chance to either leave the city building or give up their stash without being penalized.

But if a person tries to sneak marijuana into a city building or the airport after being warned, they could face a trespassing charge punishable by confiscation of the pot and up to a $100 fine.

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This was an important issue to some council members, including Jan Martin, who said the city shouldn't charge people with a drug offense for carrying one ounce of marijuana because possession of such amounts of marijuana is legal in Colorado for adults 21 and older.

"My main concern, when those penalties first came to us they included up to 180 days in jail and over $2,000 fine if found with marijuana in the airport," Martin said. "I said it then and I will reiterate, marijuana is now legal in the city of Colorado Springs and we are allowed to carry one ounce without legal ramifications."

The council reviewed the proposed ordinances, one to address the airport and one to address all city buildings, at its work session Monday. It is expected to vote on the two ordinances Tuesday in its regular meeting, which begins at 1 p.m. in City Hall.

City facilities are any enclosed building, structure or facility owned or leased by the city. That includes rest rooms in the parks and the enclosed offices of the city's parking garages. If the ordinance is approved, the city will post signs in its public buildings warning visitors that possession of marijuana in those facilities is banned, similar to signs that warn air travelers that it is illegal to carry a firearm at the airport or in city facilities. City code says it is unlawful for anyone to openly carry a firearm in city building and state law prohibits concealed weapons in public buildings. The penalty type and amount would be decided by the District Attorney's office.

In January, interim airport director Dan Gallagher announced a new rule that pot, whether for medical or recreational use, at the airport was banned. Pot is considered an illegal controlled substance under federal law, he said then, and cannot be taken on commercial aircraft. Gallagher issued the rule saying the Colorado Springs Airport must comply with federal law.

Flyers could drop their marijuana into an "amnesty box" at the airport before boarding with no questions asked, he said. But boarding the aircraft with pot could get a person up to a $2,500 fine and jail time.

If the council ordinance on possession and penalties of marijuana at the airport is approved, Gallagher will repeal the airport rule and let the council's ordinance stand as the official rule, the city's chief of staff said Monday.

"Now that marijuana is legal, we want to shift our thinking," Martin said. "Possession of marijuana is no longer a drug charge."

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