The U.S. Attorney’s Office has circulated a memorandum addressing the hot topic of marijuana enforcement; that is, whether the federal government should step in and enforce federal drug laws in states that have passed their own laws, such as in Colorado, that contradict those federal laws.
This memorandum provides guidance to U.S. Attorneys across the country in terms of which marijuana crimes they should be focusing their energies and resources on. Specifically, they are asked to focus on the following: preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels, preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states, preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity, preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana, preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use, preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands, and preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
The memo further states that in states that have legalized marijuana in some form, as has Colorado, conduct in compliance with the laws of that state is unlikely to threaten the federal priorities and may in fact adequately address those priorities. However, if state regulations are not so strong and effective as to protect against the harms sought to be prevented by the federal government, then the federal government may bring enforcement actions, including criminal prosecutions, focused on those harms.