Federal prosecutor threatens prosecution against legal Colorado marijuana businesses

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US Attorney Bob Troyer suggests that Colorado businesses operating legally could face federal action

Although legal in Colorado, marijuana is still illegal by federal standards. To that end, US Attorney Bob Troyer warns that businesses could face prosecution by federal authorities if they run afoul of federal laws, even if they are operating legally.

Last Friday, Troyer said in an op-ed piece, status under state law “as a shield” while selling their product on the black market.

U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer acknowledged that until now, federal officials in Colorado have largely focused on prosecuting the people running entirely illegal marijuana grows. The operations are often concealed on federal forest land or inside houses, spurring regular complaints from local law enforcement in some parts of the state.

“Now that federal enforcement has shot down marijuana grows on federal lands, the crosshairs may appropriately shift to the public harms caused by licensed businesses and their investors, particularly those who are not complying with state law or trying to use purported state compliance as a shield.”

He added, “We make decisions based on safety. Sometimes compliance with state law is relevant to that, and sometimes it’s not. We do not make decisions based on labels like ‘compliance with state law.’ Labels are not relevant to us — people’s safety is.”

Troyer isn’t specifically going after legal Colorado businesses that might infringe federal laws; he wants to ensure that those businesses act in accordance with all regulations.

However, one company may have already found an enemy in Troyer. He said that his office is preparing to take action against a chain of marijuana dispensaries out of Denver. He didn’t provide many details, but said that the business was nothing more than an illegal drug-trafficking organization acting as a legitimate business.

Governor John Hickenlooper’s office works closely with federal regulators to ensure that the marijuana industry in the state maintains a high level of integrity. According to the governor’s spokeswoman, Jacque Montgomery, “That means attentive regulatory oversight and enforcement and, where necessary, criminal enforcement against anyone who abuses our rules.”

Some in the industry are concerned that the federal government may attempt to stretch its reach too far. Kristi Kelly, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, said, “Targeting legal dispensaries that are doing their best to follow the letter of Colorado’s laws makes no sense without meeting with the owners and discussing their interpretation of the laws. We would have extreme concerns about that.”

Troyer took his position two years ago when former US Attorney John Walsh retired. It’s possible that he could be relieved in the near future, as Jason Dunn, a former deputy attorney general, is currently waiting to be confirmed to the post by the US Senate.

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