Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said the department’s new policy that would not actively prosecute medical marijuana businesses is based on a “faulty assumption.”
“Colorado has seen a rapid proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries and patients since the Justice Department earlier this year announced it would not actively prosecute medical marijuana businesses – despite the fact that marijuana remains an illegal drug under federal law,” he said in a statement. “The U.S. Attorney General’s new medical marijuana policy, released today, while a clearer statement on the Justice Department’s policy, relies on the faulty assumption that Colorado has clearly defined laws on medical marijuana. In fact, it does not.”
Colorado’s medical marijuana laws stem from Amendment 20 to the state’s constitution, which allows medical marijuana dispensaries to grow marijuana for people with a prescription from a doctor licensed to practice in the state. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is responsible for maintaining a registry of patients, but no one regulates the dispensaries themselves.
“Amendment 20, written by marijuana-legalization proponents, is very vague and contains no meaningful regulatory scheme,” Suthers said. “Dispensaries and grow operations, for example, are not mentioned in either Colorado’s Constitution or its statutes. This vacuum has given rise to problems I and other law enforcement leaders have highlighted over the past few months. This legal vacuum also has left Colorado’s towns and cities to grapple with the state’s burgeoning marijuana trade.”
The medical marijuana industry has blossomed in the months since the department of health failed to set regulations for the dispensaries. Changes to the amendment will have to come from the legislature, Suthers said.
“For the U.S. Attorney General’s new policy to have any significance for Colorado, our state lawmakers must give clarification to Amendment 20 and create a regulatory scheme for the growing medical marijuana industry,” he said.
Earlier this year, Colorado Springs police officers expressed the same frustration.
“What we’ve come across is that when we investigate someone, they say that they are growing medical marijuana for people (they) care for,” said Lt. Al Harmon of the Colorado Springs Police Department’s Metro Vice Narcotics Squad. “They don’t need documentation. It’s an affirmative defense.”