U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer: Pot Prosecutions Not Expected to Rise in Colorado

Am employee for Veritas Cannabis in Denver handles flowering cannabis pants.
Am employee for Veritas Cannabis in Denver handles flowering cannabis pants. Scott Lentz
The man responsible for enforcing federal cannabis prohibition in Colorado has told the state's legislators that he doesn't expect much to change despite United States Attorney General Jeff Session's recent actions. Robert Troyer, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, told a group of Colorado state representatives that the new Sessions Memorandum would not change the way federal prosecutors in Colorado approach cannabis prosecutions in Colorado, according to a spokeswoman for Congresswoman Diana DeGette.

During the call, which was confirmed by Troyer's staff, the U.S. Attorney told a bipartisan group of Colorado legislators that his office would continue to allocate the majority of its efforts and funding toward immigration, opioids and violent crime. Colorado lawmakers had become concerned with potential federal enforcement after Sessions issued a memo revoking nine years' worth of United States Department of Justice guidelines protecting businesses and consumers that were compliant with a state's cannabis laws and regulations.

Troyer's comments during the call echo similar statements he made on January 4, when Sessions released the memo. That same day, Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said that her department had no warning that Sessions's memo was coming, and added that she will continue to defend Colorado laws that legalize recreational pot, as did Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Along with DeGette, congressmen Ed Perlmutter, Jared Polis, Mike Coffman, Ken Buck and Scott Tipton were on the call, as well as Senator Cory Gardner, according to DeGette's office. All of the aforementioned politicians have either condemned the Sessions memo or criticized Congress for failing to enact protections for states' rights and legal pot programs.

"On an issue this critical to state’s rights and a key industry for Colorado, it’s good to know where things stand with respect to the guidance issued by the Trump administration last week,” participants in the call said in a joint statement. “If federal authorities were to suddenly reverse course and take punitive measures to undermine Colorado’s marijuana statutes, it could create a chilling effect on an industry that employs thousands of people in our state, where sales now exceed $1 billion per year. We are united in the view that the federal government shouldn’t subvert the will of our citizens expressed at the state level.”

On Tuesday, January 9, senators Coffman, DeGette, Perlmutter and Polis all signed a joint letter asking Sessions to reverse his recent revocation, writing that his memo "appears to stand in opposition to President Trump's publicly stated position" on state-legalized cannabis.

During his presidential campaign, Trump said he was a “states person” who believed decisions about cannabis regulation “should be up to the states, absolutely."

Several members of the call have been vocally pursuing an explanation from the AG for his memo, with Gardner even claiming that Sessions told senators that he wouldn't take action against state-legalized cannabis before his confirmation vote in February 2017. Gardner had a meeting with Sessions over the matter on Wednesday, January 9, and doubled down on his threat to put a hold on future nominees for new executive positions at the DOJ, over which Sessions presides as AG. 

Polis introduced a bill in March 2017 to deschedule cannabis as a federally illegal substance and has been working with Gardner, Perlmutter and DeGette to create a spending-bill amendment to restrict the DOJ from interfering with Colorado's legal pot industry. He's also introduced a similar amendment with California Representative Tom McClintock over the years.
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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell