When Colorado residents voted to legalize recreational marijuana use through Amendment 64 in 2012, it was no secret that a lot of loose ends would need to be worked out. One of those things was that marijuana remained, and still remains, illegal under federal law. At the time, the administration provided a directive to the United States Department of Justice to more or less look the other way and let Colorado determine how to approach regulation and prosecution – within reason, of course. However, a change in Washington, D.C. brought some uncertainty to the future of recreational and medicinal marijuana in Colorado and states that have legalized it since then. According to a recent article from USA Today, the long-awaited word on the new administration’s approach to marijuana still leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
The most recent federal action in relation to legalized marijuana use comes from the United States Department of Justice. According to the article, the past approach created what looked to be a “safe haven” by virtue of the federal directive to federal prosecutors not to interfere with a state’s approach to marijuana as long as doing so did not interfere with federal law enforcement policies. The current administration has rescinded that guidance, calling it “unnecessary” but providing little direction beyond that.
What this ultimately means is that the decision as to whether to prosecute charges related to legalized medicinal and recreational marijuana will, at least for now, be left up to federal prosecutors in states where marijuana use in any capacity has been legalized. While these attorneys have not been ordered to enforce federal marijuana law, they have been given the discretion to do so should they wish.
Those watching the situation are still unsure about whether there will be a rise in federal prosecution of marijuana-related cases, but some to do see this as a way to discourage the growing marijuana industry. According to an article in The Hill, some attorneys from states where medicinal or recreational marijuana is legal have already stated that they will not change their approach from the guidance provided by the previous administration. This includes the United States Attorney for Colorado. That means the current status quo will remain for now, though that may still be forced to change should the federal government initiate a more direct initiative moving forward with marijuana.
Even in states where medicinal and recreational marijuana use is legal, it is still possible to violate the laws governing such use. In such instances, the consequences of conviction can be severe, and Colorado is no exception. If you are facing marijuana-related drug charges in Colorado, it is important to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney to make sure you understand your rights and how to work with your attorney to advocate for them. For legal assistance in handling Colorado drug-related crimes, contact the criminal defense team at Tiftickjian Law Firm to schedule a consultation where you can find out more about the charges you are facing and what options might be available to you in your defense.
(image courtesy of Get Budding)