Colorado’s New Drug Law Violates Federal Law

On behalf of Thomas Ward Martin at The Law Office of Thomas W. Martin, LLC

In 2012, Colorado voters chose to legalize the personal, recreational use of relatively small amounts of marijuana under Amendment 64. Voters in the State of Washington followed suit and passed a similar law. But despite the voters' wishes, the use of any quantity of marijuana — even for medicinal use — is a violation of federal law. Under the U.S. Constitution's Supremacy Clause, federal law always trumps state law.

But no one knows yet exactly how the feds view Amendment 64. That ambiguity prompted Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Attorney General John Suthers to write the U.S. Department of Justice to inquire about whether the federal government will prosecute marijuana cases that are now legal under Colorado state law.

However, their letter sounded like a plea for the feds to derail the new state law by pointing out the options of "legal action to block the implementation of Amendment 64" and the prosecution of "grow and retail operations." Clearly with the hope of invalidating the state law, they said, "we also need to know whether the federal government will regard Colorado State employees who regulate and oversee the growing and distribution of marijuana as acting in violation of federal law."

Colorado's Drug Laws

While the possession of under an ounce of marijuana is legal for those 21 years and older, drugs are still illegal under every other scenario. For example, between one and eight ounces of marijuana is a class 1 misdemeanor with a possible 18 months of incarceration. More than eight ounces could land a person in prison for up to three years with a fine as high as $100,000.

For possession of hard drugs like methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine, a first offense could result in a prison term of four to 12 years with a fine up to $750,000. For second offenses, the possible prison term doubles to a range of eight to 24 years and a fine as high as $1 million. These sentences are for mere possession; a conviction for selling drugs in Colorado is substantially harsher.

Fighting Back If You Land On The Wrong Side Of Colorado's Drug Laws

Having the assistance of an experienced defense attorney is critical for those charged with drug crimes. Not only is the legal system in general highly nuanced and at times counterintuitive, but drug cases themselves demand a high level of knowledge and understanding that only a seasoned attorney can provide. With the help of a skilled defense attorney, drug cases can be dismissed entirely due to violations by police of constitutional rights like the right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a drug offense in Colorado, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss your situation and your options to keep you out of prison.


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