Colorado Medical Marijuana Bill Draws U.S. Attorney’s Warning

The U.S. attorney for Colorado warned state lawmakers Tuesday that pending legislation adjusting rules for medical marijuana would conflict with federal law and could lead to federal prosecutions.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh’s letter was sent to Colorado Attorney General John Suthers in response to his request for clarification on how federal treatment of medical marijuana use may conflict with pending legislation now under consideration in House Bill 1043.

“The Department of Justice remains firmly committed to enforcing the federal law and the Controlled Substances Act in all states,” Walsh wrote. “Thus, if the provisions of H.B. 1043 are enacted and become law, the Department will continue to carefully consider all appropriate civil and criminal legal remedies to prevent manufacture and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations.”

Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, a sponsor of the bill, said that in his mind the letter only further muddies the federal Department of Justice’s stance on medical marijuana rather than providing clarification.

“We have had mixed messages from the federal government on this,” Steadman said. “I think this casts a big shadow upon this industry in Colorado. It does cause some uncertainty and trepidation.”

Possession and sale of marijuana are illegal under federal law. But several states, including Colorado, allow the use of small amounts of marijuana for medical purposes.

Feds’ two key concerns

Colorado’s medical-marijuana industry has exploded in the past two years, partly because of the state constitutional amendment allowing marijuana for medical use, partly because of prior state court decisions allowing expanded use based on that amendment, and partly because of the Justice Department’s previous declaration that targeting medical marijuana usage in states where it was legal would be a low priority for federal agents.

As the number of marijuana dispensaries, and users, has surged across the state, the legislature has tried to provide some rules for the burgeoning industry.

The intent of the current bill, by Steadman and Rep. Tom Massey, R-Poncha Springs, was to close loopholes and fix portions of the state’s medical-marijuana laws.

But as it has moved through the committee process, it has drawn the concern of Suthers and others in law enforcement.

Suthers sent his own letter to members of the Colorado General Assembly on Tuesday, including Walsh’s guidance and similar letters sent by U.S. attorneys to stakeholders in other states.

The Walsh letter restates the federal position that the “Department of Justice will not focus its resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen.”

But Walsh targets two portions of the proposed law — one that has been removed for now, and another that remains in the bill.

The first is an amendment to the bill that would have allowed the state to license a marijuana investment fund to help fund commercial marijuana operations, which struggle to get loans because of the nature of their business. It did not pass the House.

Walsh wrote that the Department of Justice would consider civil and criminal action for those who invest in or facilitate marijuana production.

But Steadman said he does not plan to reintroduce the notion of a state-authorized investment fund in the Senate.
Second, the bill as currently drafted would authorize state licensing of “medical-marijuana infused product” facilities with up to 500 marijuana plants, along with the possibility of granting waivers to license even larger facilities.

“The Department would consider civil actions and criminal prosecution regarding those who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries, as well as property owners, as they will be acting in violation of federal law,” Walsh wrote.

“Know our limitations”

“I don’t know that this letter forces us to change the language in the bill,” Steadman said. “It may make it advisable for product manufacturers to never apply for such waivers.”

But Massey said it may be wise to simply restrict the number of plants a growing facility can have, without providing a waiver procedure that would allow such a facility to get bigger.

“I think by limiting the size to a degree, it is not a bill-killer,” Massey said.

“Prior to this, the federal government had been silent, which was even more confusing because we are trying to craft legislation on how the federal government would react,” he said. “The fact that we are getting feedback probably lets us know our limitations and boundaries, and that is a good thing.”

– Article from Denver Post.



  1. andy on

    good comments, dealing with an established cronied and corrupt Gov., Obama is trying to take it to it’s creed which has been whoefully distorted by the buisnessmen that have had a seat in the people’s house for a very long time. Only people with money get elected, need limited terms and equality in campaign financing etc..

  2. Atlanta Toker on

    The Department of Justice cant afford to just lay down, they believe that would be losing face. The DOJ has to know that its over. Any harsh action taken in a forceful manner will lessen their influence, deplete what little credibility they have left and show that what the voters are hearing about this issue is in fact true.

    Let’s face it. Now that the statistics have come out that more people are dying from prescription drugs than illegal drugs and that cannibis may be a deterrent for certain kinds of cancer as reported in the Journal of Medicine, it would make the Department of Justice look incredibly stupid to draw blood on this subject.

    The jig is up, the juice aint worth the squeeze, the fat lady has sung, liberty reigns, whatever makes you understand.

    This War on Drugs sanctioned by the Republican Party signed into law under President Richard M. Nixon, polished and advanced by every President since encompassing 40 years has been and is currently the greatest MOST EXPENSIVE FAILURE of the United States of America. It was destined for failure. Prohibition should not be tolerated in a free nation.

    The War on Drugs has been used for the last 40 years in building a prison system for profit. The population of the United States is 300 million people. That’s only 5% of the entire worlds population. However, the United States of America holds 25% of the worlds prison population. How can that possibly be based on the numbers? It cant.

    We have created an industry in the United States to deny people Freedom and Liberty, intentionally. If you are a black man or hispanic man you have a far greater chance of going to jail for drugs in the United States than if you are white. How can blacks and Hispanics who make up only 15% of the US population make up 65% of all drug arrests in this country? Its impossible unless the game is rigged, and it is. It has to be. Numbers don’t lie. People do.

  3. Anonymous on

    the fed law is illegal. obama admin needs to redo the schedule to recognise cannabis for medicine. that is what should be going to court. any fed agency is prosecuting off a broken law. people make the laws and obama said he would use science. people and science say its medicine and it works. i say let them try prove it belongs schedule 1 in a federal court.

  4. Dirty Harry on

    “Thus, if the provisions of H.B. 1043 are enacted and become law, the Department will continue to carefully consider all appropriate civil and criminal legal remedies to prevent manufacture and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations.”

    So when is the DOJ and DEA going to prosecute Obama? He made a memo saying states with legal medical marijuana laws are low priority, but the DOJ seems to disagree. Isn’t Obama guilty of aiding and abetting in the breaking of Federal drug laws by saying the legal states would be a low priority? He pretty much said go ahead and we will leave you alone for the most part and most states are taking that as a green light.