Don’t toke on the slopes. Colorado ski resort managers are reminding visitors that it remains illegal to smoke marijuana in a public place.
Before Colorado voted to legalize recreational marijuana, the state’s famed ski resorts were generally seen as stoner-safe zones where it would be unlikely for anyone to make a fuss about people sparking up on the chair lifts.
But in a weird twist, those very resorts are warning skiers and snowboarders that they’re not going to be as hospitable to the pot crowd as one might think, even as the state prepares to enter uncharted territory by selling marijuana at retail stores in January.
In fact, 22 of the state’s 28 resorts lease some or all of their land from the U.S. Forest Service, according to the Denver Post — and while possessing marijuana is legal in Colorado, it’s still as illegal as ever under federal law. USFS rangers regularly patrol ski resorts, sometimes undercover, to sniff out offenders.
Arapahoe Basin Chief Operating Officer Al Henceroth, who booted some potheads off the mountain earlier this year and warned others of similar consequences on his blog, threw the gauntlet down early.
“Already I have kicked several people out of here and taken their ski passes for smoking in public,” he wrote. “Those passes will be gone for a very long time. We will not hesitate to call the cops on this issue.”
“Marijuana smokers, please use your heads on this,” he wrote. “You cannot smoke marijuana in public while at A-Basin.”
While Henceroth is certainly correct, that hasn’t stopped pot smokers in the past. In fact, most resorts have well hidden “smoke shacks” in the woods that serve the same purpose for tokers as the après-ski taverns do for wine drinkers.
The issue is coming to the fore with new urgency this year because for the first time, Colorado will allow retail sales of recreational marijuana at licensed pot shops beginning in January. Combined with the general influx of ski season tourists — who might not know the rules about marijuana consumption — more resorts than usual are issuing reminders.
“Not every year would this be as emphatic or as big of a topic as it is now,” Paul Cruz, the regional winter sports coordinator for the Forest Service in Colorado told the Denver Post.
Nor is every resort as strict about the matter as A-Basin.
“Our patrol’s job is not to bird-dog everybody when they smell marijuana,” Wolf Creek CEO Davey Pitcher told the Post, with the exception being if marijuana use leads to reckless skiing.
People busted for smoking in public face a maximum $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.
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