CNN reports that the Federal Government won’t challenge Colorado’s marijuana legalization laws and will instead focus on serious traffic cases and preventing children from being exposed to the drug.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. It’s listed under the Federal Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule 1 drug. CBS News reports that Schedule 1 drugs are substances with a high potential for abuse and with no accepted medical use.
The Justice Department began relaxing its position on personal marijuana use in 2009. In that year, the Ogden memo was released by the Justice Department and basically indicated that prosecuting marijuana users was not their priority. This memo was clarified in 2011 with the caveat that the memo was just intended for marijuana users “not commercial operations for cultivating, selling, or distributing marijuana.”
However, under this new directive, federal prosecutors will have tightened prosecution standards. There are eight (8) enforcement priorities for federal prosecutors in reference to marijuana: 1) growing marijuana on public lands; 2) using or possessing marijuana on federal lands; 3) distributing marijuana to minors; 4) using legal sales to cover up trafficking operations; 5) using violence and or firearms in marijuana cultivation and distribution; 6) DUID driving under the influence of marijuana; 7) diverting marijuana from states where it is legal to those where it is not; 8) directing marijuana revenue to gangs and cartels.
This new directive is substantial progress for advocates of legal marijuana use not only in Colorado but also nationwide. Twenty (20) states and the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana use. Washington and Colorado are currently the only states who permit recreational marijuana use.
The new directive doesn’t alter federal money laundering rules. This still presents a problem for Colorado marijuana industry businesses. Many banks won’t do business with marijuana businesses in Colorado for fear of violating federal laws. Evan Perez of CNN writes that “Justice Department officials said there is some leeway for banks to provide services to such businesses, so long as they don’t violate the eight priorities being assigned to federal prosecutors”.
Many advocates of legal marijuana see the new directive as great progress for the industry, however some are still concerned and cite that the Obama administration has shut down more state-legal marijuana businesses in one term than the Bush administration did in two terms. According to an article by Nick Wing and Luke Johnson of the Huffington Post, the Obama Administration has spent nearly $300 million cracking down on medical marijuana.
Michael Roberts of Denver Westword quotes Governor Hickenlooper as reacting to the directive:
“We recognize how difficult this issue has been for the Department of Justice and we appreciate the thoughful approach it has taken. Amendment 64 put Colorado in conflict with federal law. Today’s announcement shows the federal government is respecting the will of Colorado voters.”
Only time will tell how individual Colorado’s U.S. Attorneys will interpret the new guidelines.
Attorney Monte Robbins defends people who have been charged with drug crimes in municipal, county, and district courts in Colorado. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime in Colorado, contact Attorney Monte Robbins today for a free case evaluation at 303-355-5148 or 970-301-5541.