Breckenridge is boasting that it has become the Amsterdam of the Rockies
It's already being dubbed "the Amsterdam of the Rockies" and an après-ski spliff is likely to become almost as common as a beer when cannabis possession is legalised in the hip mountain town of Breckenridge, Colorado, on 1 January.
Well known as a laid-back party resort characterised by baggy-trousered snowboarders and a vigorous happy hour, Breckenridge voted last month to relax marijuana laws.
From New Year's Day there will be no criminal or civil penalties imposed on anyone carrying up to an ounce of marijuana – or the paraphernalia usually associated with it, such as long rolling papers, a small pipe or a bong. That also goes for tourists, in a resort popular with British visitors who flock there for the exciting ski slopes and the exuberant nightlife.
"I'm already getting calls from people outside the state asking questions, such as 'Can I do it while I'm skiing?', 'Can I bring it to my hotel room?', that kind of thing," said Kim Green, spokeswoman for the Breckenridge police department.
The answer to the first question is no. The operators of the ski resort have made it clear that, while cannabis use may be decriminalised in the town, they are still able to ban it on the slopes under separate laws, and will come down heavily on anyone skiing while stoned.
The answer to the hotel question, though, is potentially a yes, provided guests can get hold of the drug in the first place. And that could be tricky. It will remain illegal to buy, sell or grow cannabis and also to display or use it in public. That means no Amsterdam-style "coffee shops", but the remaining restrictions in Breckenridge have not stopped campaigners making comparisons between the town and the Dutch capital.
"We're the second town in America after Denver to remove all penalties for marijuana possession and the first in history to remove all penalties for paraphernalia, and that's cutting-edge on a global basis," said Brian Vicente. He heads the pressure group Sensible Colorado, which is campaigning to make cannabis legal across the whole state.
Pot is illegal in Colorado under state and federal law. In theory, the police could stop someone under state law. But they have given no indication that they will do so. They will, however, be adopting "zero tolerance" for those driving while high, smoking dope in public or causing disturbances under the influence of drugs, Green said.
December 27, 2009
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Colorado resort legalises cannabis, but not on the ski slopes