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Officials weed through issues from legalized drug use

Recreational use of marijuana became legal in Nevada when the clock struck midnight New Year’s Eve, leaving Boulder City officials and police wondering how they will govern and enforce the new law.

Boulder City Police Chief Tim Shea wrote in an email that the city will continue to enforce state law and that for now marijuana use will be treated like alcohol.

“Our policy is and always will be to enforce the law,” Shea wrote. “The law for marijuana use, possession and consumption typically (mirrors) alcohol.”

This means that police in Boulder City will arrest people for DUI who are under the influence of marijuana. But it also means that the police will not cite people for having an ounce or less of the drug in their home, according to City Attorney Dave Olsen.

The law states that marijuana can be consumed only in a private residence, so people will be cited for using a drug in a public area.

“If someone breaks into your house and the police come to investigate, as they are allowed to do, they will not arrest you if they see you were smoking a roach in your home,” Olsen said.

Olsen and City Council members are discussing changes to the zoning code that would prohibit recreational marijuana dispensaries in the city limits. Currently, city zoning code prohibits medical marijuana dispensaries from existing in the city limits; however, recreational distribution could require a change to the code.

“I am currently talking with some of the department heads about potential word changes we would need to make to the zoning code,” Olsen said. “Our intention is to have the same regulations that we currently have for medical dispensaries.”

According to Olsen, the city plans to take its time changing the zoning code since recreational dispensaries will not be legal statewide until the Nevada Legislature meets and comes to an agreement on how to set up the proper infrastructure.

“We need to take our time on this because we don’t want to put an undue burden on the city,” he said. “The specifics of the new law have not been hashed out at the state level, let alone in the city.”

Shea said he expects use of the drug to mimic that of other states such as Washington, Oregon and Colorado, where recreational use was legalized.

According to an October report published by the Drug Policy Alliance, those three states have experienced a decrease in marijuana arrests, no increases in teen drug use and tax revenue exceeding expectations by over $500 million.

Councilman Cam Walker and Director of Community Development Brok Armantrout referred all comment to Olsen. Mayor Rod Woodbury and City Manager Dave Fraser did not respond for comment.

Contact reporter Max Lancaster at mlancaster @bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow him on Twitter @MLancasterBCR.

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