Life must be frustrating for Nebraska potheads these days. Just across the western border, tantalizingly close, lies a state where marijuana is legal, pot shops sell it in the open, and no one really cares how much of it you smoke.
Nebraska is not like that. Neither are Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, or Wyoming, all states that border Colorado but ban cannabis for any use. Things are a bit different in Arizona and New Mexico, both of which allow medical marijuana. But Colorado is surrounded by neighbors that frown upon the state’s liberal pot laws.
So how do stoners who live near Colorado – near enough to cross the state line and swing by a retail pot shop every now and then – deal with this problem? And what risks do they face in bringing the stuff home?
As most tokers know by now, marijuana is legal for recreation in Colorado, as it is in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and the District of Columbia. There are retail stores across the state, including some near various state borders (Utah and Nebraska in particular).
Colorado’s neighbors are not as friendly to marijuana users
But that is most definitely not true in the states next door. Drug laws are especially harsh in Kansas and Oklahoma, though they’re not much friendlier in Utah or Wyoming. Nebraska has decriminalized possession of up to 1 ounce of cannabis, but only on a first offense.
New Mexico and Arizona, meanwhile, allow medical marijuana. But while most Arizona prosecutors offer diversionary penalties for simple non-medical possession, even that is a felony and is usually punished as such in Maricopa County. New Mexico, meanwhile, treats simple possession as a misdemeanor with a potential sentence of 15 days in jail on a first offense.
In other words, cannabis laws outside Colorado are not remotely as friendly as they are within the state. And that spells potential trouble for stoners who bring weed across state lines.
Attempts to block legalization in Colorado
It’s important to note that Colorado’s most conservative neighbors, particularly Oklahoma and Nebraska, fiercely oppose legalization there and have tried to block it. Those two states sued Colorado earlier this year to wipe out legal pot, but failed.
They haven’t given up, though. Police who operate near state lines have ramped up enforcement efforts to catch drivers carrying marijuana out of Colorado. The vast majority gets through, but the consequences of getting caught can be drastic.
And then there is federal law, which makes it a felony to transport any amount of cannabis across any state lines. Even carrying weed from Oregon to Washington, both states where the drug is completely legal, is a federal crime. U.S. attorneys are unlikely to prosecute most cases involving small amounts, but consequences can be unpleasant nonetheless.
The end lesson is that while it’s easy in practical terms to carry marijuana out of Colorado or any other state where the drug is legal, it’s definitely not safe. In other words, traffic at your own risk.
Tell us: Have you ever carried a small amount of cannabis out of Colorado? Leave a comment below.