Calling fines ‘too harsh,’ Colorado town cuts marijuana penalties in half

Marijuana smokers in Federal Heights — town motto: Reaching Great Heights — will face lighter penalties when they reach a little higher, The Denver Post reports Monday. The town’s City Council last week cut the maximum fine for pot smokers caught with an ounce or less of the herb from $1,000 to $500 and did away with the possibility of jail time.

Advocates for looser marijuana laws cheered the move as good economic sense in tough times, saying it would save both city prosecutors and pot smokers some hard-earned green. “When you consider the massive fine someone could face, it could destroy them,” the executive director of Sensible Colorado, Brian Vicente, told the Post.

City officials said they were merely bringing their ordinance more into line with state statute, which sets a maximum $100 fine without jail time for possessing a lid of pot. “I believe we felt it was time to get the punishment more in line with the infraction,” City Council member Dale Sparks told the Post. Mayor Pro Tem Richard Steele said the old law was “too harsh,” though he disagreed with marijuana advocates who argued pot is less dangerous than alcohol.

After recognizing its Holiday Lighting Contest winners (first place and $100 to Dale Beard) on Jan. 6, the City Council voted 4-1 to cut in half the maximum penalty for marijuana possession, a petty offense.

The only lawmaker to vote against the new law said she thought the fine should be set even lower, at $100. “When people use marijuana recreationally it’s not a major crime, and people shouldn’t pay high fines for it,” Tanya Ishikawa told the Post. “Personally, I think $500 is too high, especially in these times.”

Renowned marijuana advocate Mason Tvert, executive director of SAFER, urged the city to follow Ishikawa’s lead. “There’s no reason individuals in Federal Heights should have to pay $500 if they get caught, when their neighbors in Lakewood only have to pay a hundred,” Tvert said, according to KWGN-TV, which first reported the story.

Penalties for selling the drug or possessing larger amounts remain unchanged. “It doesn’t mean that you’re selling or trafficking or anything like that,” Mayor Joyce Thomas said. “That’s a totally different level.”

The fines might be dropping in Federal Heights, but marijuana prices remain high in the town of 12,000, according to a report on WeBeHigh.com, which bills itself as a “traveler’s guide to getting high.” The site advises the “[only] way to get the good bud in Colorado is to have a connection to a grower,” while noting, “There are definitely plenty of them here.” Recommended brands in the Federal Heights vicinity include Dynamite, AK-47, Bubble Gum and Jack Herer. Once you find the grower and settle on a brand, be prepared to shell out some serious bucks:

Federal Heights Marijuana Prices:
You know the grower, you get the better deal, you don’t know one, then you’ll pay the price. $300 on ounce if you know one, $400+ if you don’t.

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Ernest Luning

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