by Wina Sturgeon
Colorado will open pot shops to recreational smokers on January 1, 2014. Walk in, buy weed, and inhale it at your leisure. Potential problems with this new and open era have yet to present themselves, but there’s one place where it’s still illegal to smoke it—at ski resorts.
If you get caught by authorities toking while skiing or snowboarding, you WILL get busted! That’s because nearly all of the 21 ski resorts in Colorado are on Federal land. Weed is still an illegal drug, according to Federal law. Plus, it’s still against even the Colorado law to smoke in public, just as it is to consume alcohol in public. Paper bags can hide a bottle, but how do you hide the pungent smoke of weed?
This has put states which have legalized the substance into a quandry. Federal law of course trumps state law. But in ‘legal’ states, it’s no longer a state crime to posess pot. The Feds can still close down dispensaries if they wish, or bust anyone for driving across state lines where marijuana is still illegal. But the gradual trend is definitely in the direction of national legalization.
Colorado snowriders certainly favor legalization. In resort towns like Aspen and Vail, nearly 75 percent of voters voted for the measure to legalize recreational pot. Even though it’s against the law to smoke on resort property, that law is ignored by many. It’s just too easy to slip into the trees at the sides of runs and have a smoke. As long as snowriders are being discrete, there’s very little chance of getting caught.
This may end up being a real problem for the ski resorts in straight-laced Utah, which is in a constant rivalry with Colorado for resort customers. While many families plan one big snow vacation a year, there are many more adult skiers and snowboarders who visit resorts several times each year, not to mention locals who have season passes, and those who can choose to drive or fly from one state to the other. Will Utah lose some of their lucrative share of the multi-billion annual resort business to those who prefer to visit a state where they can legally purchase pot and discretely smoke it while on the slopes?
Even more to the point, how much revenue will Utah earn by posting more police at the state line to bust—and fine—those they think are flying or driving into Utah while concealing legally purchased pot that suddenly becomes illegal when leaving Colorado?
Since travel agencies are actively promoting special tours that offer private (and thus legal) opportunities to smoke and hit the slopes, Colorado skier days may dramatically increase.
The scenario has yet to play out, but two things are certain: the snow rivalry between the two states will intensify, and the cosmic laws of unintended consequences will provide a great deal of humor for everyone watching the outcome.