By KKTV | Posted: Mon 4:11 PM, Jan 23, 2017 | Updated: Tue 6:41 AM, Jan 24, 2017
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) – A four-year dispute over medical marijuana seized by police in Colorado Springs has come to an end. The Colorado Supreme Court says police don’t have to return marijuana plants to a man acquitted of marijuana-related drug crimes. Colorado police can resume destroying marijuana seized in a criminal investigation.
On Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People v. Robert Crouse. The opinion ends the dispute over whether article XVIII, section 14(2)(e) of the Colorado Constitution, which requires law enforcement officers to return medical marijuana seized from an individual who is later acquitted of a state drug charge, is pre-empted by the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Crouse was in possession of 55 marijuana plants and about 2.9 kilograms of marijuana product that police had seized. Crouse was later acquitted of marijuana-related drug crimes after he asserted he that he was in lawful possession of the drug for medical purpose under Colorado law.
The issue came up when a district court judge ordered the return of the plants under Colorado law. The district judge shot down the district attorney’s argument and ruled the marijuana be returned to Crouse in December of 2013. The Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the district court judge’s order. The ruling was a positive conflict between Colorado law and the federal Controlled Substances Act, violating federal law according to the Colorado Supreme Court. The Colorado Supreme Court stated the return provision is preempted and rendered void.
The Colorado Supreme Court’s opinion resolves a conflict of interpretation between Colorado state courts and federal prosecutors regarding the scope of the federal Controlled Substances Act.
John Walsh, the former United States attorney for the district of Colorado, had previously advised state law enforcement officers that they would be in violation of the federal Act if they complied with Colorado’s return provision. Because federal authorities are not bound by state judges’ interpretation of federal law, the conflicting interpretations of the federal Controlled Substances Act placed local law enforcement authorities at risk of federal prosecution anytime they returned marijuana that they had previously seized.