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People v. Wolf

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc

January 17, 2017

The People of the State of Colorado, Petitioner
v.
Alexander L. Wolf. Respondent

         Certiorari to the Colorado Court of Appeals Court of Appeals Case No. 13CA2110

         Judgment Affirmed.

          Attorneys for Petitioner: Cynthia H. Coffman, Attorney General Kevin E. McReynolds, Assistant Attorney General Denver, Colorado

          No appearance by or on behalf of Alexander L. Wolf.

          JUSTICE EID dissents, and JUSTICE COATS and JUSTICE HOOD join in the dissent.

          OPINION

          RICE CHIEF JUSTICE.

          ¶1 This case requires us to determine if Amendment 64 to the Colorado

         Constitution, which legalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, deprived the State of the power to continue to prosecute individuals for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana after the Amendment became effective. In light of our holding today in People v. Boyd, 2017 CO 2, __P.3d__, we hold that it did.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         ¶2 In September 2012, the police arrested Respondent Alexander Wolf after a search of his car found various narcotics, including less than one ounce of marijuana. In October 2012, Wolf was charged with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana, [1]possession of cocaine, possession of dihydrocodeinone, and possession of drug paraphernalia. On December 10, 2012, before Wolf's case was submitted to a jury, Amendment 64-a Colorado citizen initiative that legalized the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use-became effective. See Colo. Const. Art. XVIII, § 16(3)(a). Subsequently, in July 2013, a jury found Wolf guilty of possessing cocaine, dihydrocodeinone, drug paraphernalia, and less than two ounces of marijuana.[2] In October 2013, the trial court sentenced him to twenty-one days in jail and two years of probation. Wolf filed a timely notice of appeal. On appeal, Wolf argued that his conviction for possessing what ultimately was less than one ounce of marijuana should be vacated because Amendment 64 legalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana before he had been convicted. The court of appeals in a split decision agreed and vacated his marijuana possession conviction and sentence. People v. Wolf, No. 13CA2110, slip op. at 19 (Colo.App. July 30, 2015). Judge Dailey dissented in relevant part. Id. at 21. (Dailey, J. concurring in part, dissenting in part). We granted certiorari.[3]

         II. Standard of Review

         ¶3 The proper interpretation of a constitutional amendment is a question of law that we review de novo. Danielson v. Dennis, 139 P.3d 688, 691 (Colo. 2006).

         III. Analysis

         ¶4 This case asks us to resolve whether Amendment 64 deprived the State of the power to continue to prosecute individuals for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana after the Amendment became effective. We addressed a nearly identical issue in People v. Boyd, also decided today. 2017 CO 2. In Boyd, the defendant, Pamela Boyd, had been convicted of possession of what ultimately was less than one ounce of marijuana. ¶ 2. The State originally derived its authority to prosecute her from section 18-18-406(1), C.R.S. (2011), which provided that possession of two or fewer ounces of marijuana was a class 2 petty offense. Boyd, ΒΆ 6. However, before Boyd's right to appeal had expired, Amendment 64 became effective and rendered inoperative the relevant language of this statute because ...


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