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Tips on Driving with Marijuana in Colorado

As Colorado embraces the legal recreational use of marijuana—an important experiment, according to President Obama, one of the issues yet to be clarified concerns driving around while in possession of the drug. The simple truth is you cannot just dump a plate of tinfoil-wrapped brownies in the passenger seat or stash a few joints in the glove compartment on your way home—especially if you’ve already sampled some of the goodies. Along with alcohol, Colorado has now issued a no open container law for marijuana as well.

An open container of alcohol is pretty easy to conceive, but what would an open container of marijuana look like?

All cannabis leaving a recreational marijuana store is supposed to be in an opaque, child-resistant bag with a clear label, so there could be signs if you’ve prematurely opened something directly from the shops. Since Coloradoans are legally allowed to possess one ounce of marijuana at a time though, that packaging rule may not apply to other transportation situations. If you’re driving over to a friend’s house, for instance, could you put your pot in a Tupperware container and consider that sealed?

According to the law, an open container includes anything containing marijuana—whether an edible, a vaporizer, or a traditional bag of kush—and which:

  • Is open, or has a broken seal;
  • Has contents that have been partially removed (a bite of a brownie, for example);
  • Supplies evidence that marijuana has been consumed within the motor vehicle

Suffice it to say, the practical interpretation of this law remains incredibly ambiguous and that Tupperware box might not make the cut. Considering law enforcement will be aggressively trying to make examples of people in the first year or so of legalized pot, we urge you to keep your marijuana substances as far away from you as possible while driving. In fact, the best advice we can offer at this point is to put it all in the trunk. In vehicles without trunks, it is acceptable to have unsealed pot behind the very last row of seats, and it’s alright to have open weed in the living quarters of recreational vehicles as well.

Furthermore, while the fine for having an open container of pot might only be $50 (with a surcharge of $7.80), the reality is even a petty drug offense violates federal law and will always show up on your background checks. That, in turn, will affect your eligibility for federal student loans, hamper certain employment prospects, and possibly ban you from social benefits such as food stamps and public housing.

We cannot emphasize enough how long it might take to establish a standard application of the open container law, so, for now, please PUT IT IN THE TRUNK!
Given the enduring impact of a federal drug offense, individuals are urged to exercise caution and prioritize compliance with the open container law. The evolving nature of marijuana legalization suggests that it may take time to establish a standardized application of the law. Until then, the safest course of action is to adhere to the recommended practices, such as placing marijuana in the trunk, to avoid legal complications and safeguard personal and professional interests.

As Colorado navigates the complexities of legal recreational marijuana use, individuals must remain informed about the nuances of the open container law. The ongoing ambiguity underscores the importance of adopting a cautious approach, with an emphasis on compliance to avoid potential legal consequences. As the legal landscape evolves, staying updated on regulations and adhering to best practices, such as storing marijuana in the trunk, becomes essential for responsible and law-abiding cannabis enthusiasts in the state.

Do you have further questions or concerns? Call us or contact the attorneys at Thomas & Ahnell, LLC, and we will be happy to help.

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