Everyone has heard the jokes about being a mile-high in Colorado ski towns, where alcohol in the open and illicit drugs in the shadows are perceived by many as the norm. But two weeks ago Breckenridge asked voters whether the possession of small amounts of marijuana should be decriminalized and the response was a resounding “yes.”
But how the town’s drug ordinance will impact locals is still uncertain. For business owners ever vigilant about the town’s image, it raises concerns particularly for those shops dependent on a more conservative clientele. Resort managers and ski bums openly discuss the implications of the ordinance. The leader of the group that organized the petition drive leading to the vote, Sensible Colorado, said that Breckenridge, where 71 percent of voters approved the marijuana measure on Election Day, was the opening salvo in a town-by-town strategy toward the goal of a vote on statewide legalization within a few years.
Local efforts, said the group’s founder and chairman, are now organizing or under way in two other Colorado resort towns, Durango and Aspen. And after the election, inquiries from Montana and Washington were made seeking advice on starting voter initiatives.
State and federal law still make marijuana possession a crime in Colorado, but residents here say that local enforcement has not been a high police priority.
A spokeswoman for the Breckenridge Resort Chamber of Commerce, said she thought that because of those other laws, little would change. But she said that some chamber members were concerned about perceptions — that the statute could send a message of broader drug tolerance that could turn off visiting families, who remain a cornerstone of the economic base.
At Vail Resorts, a publicly traded company that owns the Breckenridge resort, a spokeswoman said she expected no change in management practices, claiming that resort employees were already trained to be “hypervigilant” in watching people for dangerous behavior from drugs or alcohol.
Whether the new measure will lead to more accidents on the slopes is yet to be tested.