Medical marijuana letter from U.S. Attorney worrisome to business, says Sen. Pat Steadman

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Pat Steadman.
Earlier today, we shared a letter from U.S. Attorney John Walsh attacking elements of HB 1043, a bill intended to clean up aspects of last year's medical marijuana legislation. Senator Pat Steadman, who's co-sponsoring the measure with Representative Tom Massey, confesses to being somewhat mystified by Walsh's take, which struck him as more confusing than clarifying. Still, he says, "If I were in the business, I would be worried."

He adds, "We seem to have a federal law enforcement agency with its policy adrift."

Although Colorado Attorney General's Office spokesman Mike Saccone says members of the Colorado General Assembly were sent a package of material that included Walsh's letter, Steadman says he got his copy from the Denver Post. He wasn't especially surprised by its contents, which included an introduction from AG John Suthers plus copies of missives from several U.S. Attorneys in addition to the one from Walsh.

"There seems to be a rash of these letters," Steadman says. "I received a copy of one from the U.S. Attorney in Washington state a week or so ago."

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John Walsh.
Also included: California-based U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag's letter to the Oakland City Council, which some advocates see as threatening federal crackdowns on medical marijuana facilities even in states where such businesses have been legalized -- one that contradicted a 2009 memo by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden directing U.S. Attorneys not to target MMJ facilities if they followed local law in states that passed them.

As for Walsh, he singled out two provisions of HB 1043 that he saw as problematic. The first concerned "a marijuana investment fund or funds under which both Colorado and out-of-state investors would invest in commercial marijuana operations." Even though this concept fell out of the legislation during its journey through the Colorado House process, Walsh wrote that "the Department would consider civil and criminal legal remedies regarding those who invest in the production of marijuana... even if the investment is made in a state-licensed fund of the kind proposed."

Walsh also criticized a provision for allowing infused-product facilities containing up to 500 plants, "with the possibility of licensing even larger facilities, with no stated number limit, with a state-granted waiver based upon broad factors such as 'business need.'" It's still part of the current legislation.

Steadman's take? "I was curious why he singled out the two provisions he did, one of which is not part of the bill. It was an amendment out there for a while, but I have no intention of pursuing this issue in the Senate, and as I understand it, everyone who had been pursuing it has dropped it. And the other one -- the 500 plant limit and the potential for a waiver if your business needs would require additional plant material -- well, I have no idea why they're comfortable with 500, but 501 is too many.

"That was something various interests who are working on this bill suggested -- some kind of limit for product-manufacturers grow operations," he continues. "But there's certainly nothing magical about the number 500 for the purposes of state law. And I can't imagine why that's their threshold."

Does the number strike him as arbitrary?

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Henry Higgins
Henry Higgins

Sen. Steadman is WRONG about the Walsh memo. The feds didn't say "500 plants are OK". Didn't he read the letter, and all the other recent memos from other US Attorneys? The feds say cultivating and selling marijuana is ILLEGAL, regardless of state law. That means that ALL marijuana cultivation and sales, of any amount, in any state, regardless of state or local laws is ILLEGAL.

The discussion in US Attorney Walsh's letter about 1043 is a sidebar. The crux of the memo is that all the dispensaries in Colorado are currently operating illegally in the eyes of the federal government and that dispensary owners, landlords, employees, and even state employees who help implement the medical marijuana distribution are all subject to "civil actions and criminal prosecutions."

It is appalling that the Senator that wrote this memo did not even comprehend what it says, and is sending out the false message that the feds say "500 plants are OK." Steadman needs to make an immediate retraction of this statement.


Contribute something so we can get our act together, clarify our constitutional rights and challenge the states rights with the feds.

Joseph, 303 Organics
Joseph, 303 Organics

what i'd like to know is would the 10 million plus that the state 'stole' from the medical marijuana licensing fees be considered ill gotten gains? will the feds come in and kick down colorado's door and seize all of it's assests? has anyone else thought of this? this has all become more and more painful to follow as each days passes. what the fuck is going on anymore? so much has changed in a very short period of time and really, none of it has been for the better. depending on which side you are on.


It is time to get marijuana out of the schedule 1 drug list. Marijuana has known medical uses and needs rescheduled....medical marijuana can't be supported at the federal level until this happens. ...colorado is supposed to make a rescheduling request in 8+ months anyway.....why not make the request NOW!?



Just Wondering
Just Wondering

What kind of entity is the PCRLP? You're accepting donations, so how are they declared? Have you released a budget or an annual report? Are you a nonprofit? Are you accountable to your donors in any way? How do I know that my money has gone to something other than something you burn in your bowls?

Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

"what i'd like to know is would the 10 million plus that the state 'stole' from the medical marijuana licensing fees be considered ill gotten gains? will the feds come in and kick down colorado's door and seize all of it's assests? has anyone else thought of this?"

I've asked the same question a few times. I don't see how it could be viewed any differently to the Feds than an organized crime leader taking a cut of the action from low-level drug dealers. If the DEA had a chance to take a kingpin down by tracking his income back to a street dealer you know they'd be all over it.

The bigger question I have, which I know is rhetorical, is why doesn't Suthers join in with other State Attorney's General and sue the Feds over "State's Rights" like he did with Obamacare? I know the answer - this "State's Rights" issue doesn't fit his political agenda. Oh, how I wish Garnett would have beat him in the last election!

Replace "Obamacare" with "Medical Marijuana" in this video and you would have Suthers actually doing his job.

In fact, he even raises the "Commerce Clause" argument. That is the sole reason that Federal MJ laws are able to exist ( In essence, Fed persecution of State MMJ industry is punishing people for commercial "inactivity" - in this case, it is the act of not buying prescription drugs...


There's no real hurry. It took the Feds 16 years to rule on the first rescheduling petition which was filed by NORML in 1972. After the DEA's administrative law judge ruled and ordered cannabis moved to schedule II the DEA said, "orders? we don't take no steenkin' orders." Tomorrow or year from tomorrow they're just not going to do it without a court order. Anyone that thinks their decision is going to be based on medical reality or that doctors and scientists are going to be allowed to make these decisions are simply off their rockers.

Mr. Obama has decided that he doesn't need or want the votes of the potheads and people who think sick people getting relief is more important than prohibitionist dogma. He's probably right that the potheads won't ever support a Republican even though they're being bent over and screwed by the Obama administration. Why the heck would he stop since the idiot potheads even volunteer to bring the vaseline? This is one place where the potheads are just as stupid as the right wing nutzis.


Licensing is not needed to set up a cannabis production and distribution operation. It's not, and can't ever be illegal under Federal law. It's amazing to me how many people think that illicit activities can't be taxed. The IRS sends out bills for back taxes, interest, and penalties to people found to be involved in drug production and distribution every business day of the year.

Matt in Boulder
Matt in Boulder

Duncan - I don't see your point at all. This discussion is about the DEA, not the IRS. The DEA doesn't just "send out bills for back taxes". They put people in jail and ruin their lives completely. Based on your response to Crandle, I think you understand the distinction. Maybe you were in a flurry of posting and got your issues confused.

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