Are “Pot Bus” Operations Illegal?
Since Colorado legalized the consumption of marijuana for public purposes, businesses have been looking for creative ways to capitalize on the new market. Among the burgeoning marijuana businesses that began developing over the past 5 years are pot “party busses.”
What Are Pot Party Busses?
Party bus operations have been a common business in recent years. They are typically utilized for events like birthdays, bachelor parties, and graduations. Party bus passengers enjoy loud music and have room to stand up and dance while drinking alcohol.
The party bus model has been adopted by some Colorado businesses for marijuana consumption. However, Denver law enforcement has targeted these businesses for undercover sting operations under the suspicion that they are breaking Colorado law regarding public use of marijuana.
Colorado Law on Public Marijuana Use
Under Colorado law, it is illegal to use marijuana in a public place. An official Colorado state website suggests that “public use” includes outdoor and indoor areas, such as:
- Amusement parks;
- Common areas of apartment buildings or condos;
- Concert venues;
- Restaurants, cafes, or bars;
- Sidewalks; and
- Ski resorts.
The primary legal issue regarding the legality of pot party bus operations focuses on whether a party bus qualifies as a “public place” or “private property.” Councilwoman Kendra Black of the Denver City Council notes that Denver’s laws are confusing because “there’s no definition of ‘public.’” The enforcement of an ambiguous law can be considered an unconstitutional deprivation of due process if it does not allow a reasonable person to understand what is or is not illegal.
A spokesperson for “My 420 Tours” – one of the pot party bus operators raided this past summer – argues the party bus is not a public space because passengers are not allowed to embark or disembark from the bus as they please, unlike public busses.
Conversely, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Excise and Licenses said My 420 Tours was warned in a letter dated March 5, 2018, that party buses are considered a “public” area and that marijuana consumption on the bus requires a permit.
DUI Charges Against the Bus Driver Are Dismissed
During one of the raids, police arrested the bus driver for allegedly driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs. Our very own Attorney Charles F. Fife defended the bus driver during criminal proceedings, arguing that “there was not a legal basis to pull him over because he didn’t commit a traffic violation…”
The 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, and Article II, Section 7 of the Colorado Constitution guarantees a person’s right to be free of unwarranted searches and arrests. An arrest is warranted if the arresting officer has probable cause that the suspect has committed, or is about to commit, a crime. Police officers may stop a vehicle and search the driver if they have a reasonable and articulable suspicion that the driver has committed a crime, such as driving under the influence. Although police issued criminal citations for the passengers who were smoking on the bus, police footage depicts the bus driver telling the police he doesn’t smoke weed.
Ultimately, the judge agreed with Attorney Fife and dismissed the DUI case against the bus driver. However, the issue of whether a party bus constitutes a public or private area in which marijuana use may or may not be prohibited remains controversial.
Call Our Qualified Colorado Drug Crimes Attorney Today
While society figures out the details of effective marijuana regulation, people may sometimes be arrested for charges under an unclear rule of law. Such arrests are explicitly prohibited by the foundational principles of our country, and the state of Colorado. If you have been confronted with drug charges or an improper DUI arrest, you need a skilled Colorado criminal defense attorney with experience handling such cases. At Fife Luneau, P.C., we have committed years of our practice to defending Colorado residents against improper criminal charges. You can count on us to fiercely advocate for your due process rights to ensure the criminal justice system is not abused.
Call (720) 408-7130 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today!