With the Jan. 1 change in state marijuana (cannabis) laws looming, law enforcement officers and officials have had to keep pace.

As of the last Board of Supervisors meeting, a temporary ban on commercial cannabis activity is in place. However, it will not affect an adult’s right to grow six plants and possess one ounce of marijuana.

Del Norte County Sheriff Erik Apperson said that while the new laws will stretch his resources, his department stays committed to one mission.

“DNSO law enforcement remains updated and current to the constantly changing statutes with regards to marijuana,” Apperson said Wednesday. “As California continues to navigate their way through this new legislation, we will not alter our daily mission, which is to safeguard lives, property and constitutional rights while operating professionally, equitably and in a partnership with the communities we serve.”

Apperson said the legalization of recreational marijuana means deputies will have to react to the decisions made by voters last year.

“We hold briefing trainings, foster discussions and as the opportunities become practical, available and accessible we will be continue to be trained on any changes that will affect practice, enforcement, and/or policy” he said. “Realistically, the trend to decriminalize marijuana use is nothing new to The State of California. It has been headed that way for years and as of Nov. 9, 2017, it has already become legal for any adult over the age of 21 to obtain, transport, possess or give away marijuana (with limitations to volume and potency).”

However, Apperson felt more could have been done to promote awareness.

“Where our state has collectively fallen short in my opinion, is the educational component to changing marijuana laws,” he said. “People, especially young people, are confused about restrictions.”

Apperson said he attends the Del Norte County cannabis working groups and meets regularly with local legal counsel on the subject. He said he also stays in contact with other sheriffs around the state.

“I have great relationships with surrounding sheriffs as well, both in California and Oregon (Curry County),” he said.

Key points

“For now, it’s important that people understand they must be at least 21 years old and under Prop 64 they may not consume marijuana in a public place, smoke or vape it in any non-smoking area or within 1,000 feet of a school, day care or youth center while kids are present (with an exception while at a private residence),” Apperson said. “People also need to know they can’t consume marijuana, be under the influence of it or or possess an open container of it while operating a motor vehicle or even riding as a passenger.”

Apperson also noted marijuana cannot be possessed or used on school grounds and there are still restrictions involving the manufacture of concentrated cannabis. Property owners may prohibit the possession, use or cultivation of marijuana on their property and employers may prohibit the use of marijuana by their employees, he noted.

“Generally speaking, possession of over an ounce of marijuana remains a misdemeanor offense as does certain offenses involving the cultivation, illegal sale, transportation, etc. of marijuana,” Apperson said. “As Del Norte County moves forward and decides how to govern recreational sales of marijuana and implement/enforce the agricultural regulations that will come with it, the DNSO will continue to respond within our scope and accordingly.”

Reach Tony Reed at treed@triplicate.com.

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