U.S. Attorney Makes Case for Criminally Targeting Legal Cannabis Industry

DENVER, CO. – In an op-ed published Friday by the Denver Post, federal prosecutor Bob Troyer made the case for whyyou may start seeing U.S. attorneys shift toward criminally charging licensed marijuana businesses and their investors.” Troyer, the current U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, is not long for the position, which he assumed following the resignation of Obama-nominee John Walsh in 2016. Jason Dunn, a deputy attorney general and assistant solicitor under former state Attorney General John Suthers, was nominated for the job in June and is waiting to be approved.

Before Troyer leaves his post, however, he appears to be signaling a new offensive by the federal government, or part of it, intended to impede the progress of the country’s nascent cannabis industry. Indeed, while Troyer’s op-ed noted the success his office has had in its efforts to eradicate illegal cannabis grows on federal land, the main objective of the piece was to make the argument why federal prosecutors’ “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.”

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Troyer bases the “public safety” necessity to clamp down on licensed businesses on reports out of Colorado regarding that state’s “experiment in commercialized marijuana. Six years later—with two major industry reports just released and the state legislature and Denver City Council about to consider more expansion measures—it’s a perfect time to pause and assess some results of that experiment.”

Citing data to support his position, Troyer opined, “Now Colorado’s youth use marijuana at a rate 85 percent higher than the national average. Now marijuana-related traffic fatalities are up by 151 percent. Now 70 percent of 400 licensed pot shops surveyed recommend that pregnant women use marijuana to treat morning sickness. Now an indoor marijuana grow consumes 17 times more power per square foot than an average residence. Now each of the approximately one million adult marijuana plants grown by licensed growers in Colorado consumes over 2.2 liters of water — per day. Now Colorado has issued over 40 little-publicized recalls of retail marijuana laced with pesticides and mold.”

Each of these data points can be refuted or put in proper context, but Troyer’s objective seems less to help the industry find its way to maturity than to indict it for “trying to exploit our nation’s opioid tragedy to push its own controlled substance as a panacea. Why? It’s a profit opportunity.”

Troyer suggests we should “pause and catch our breath before racing off again at the industry’s urging.” He thinks we need to “educate ourselves about the impacts of commercialization” and “reclaim our right as citizens to have a say in Colorado’s health, safety, and environment.” The democratic carrot he placed before the people in his op-ed, however, is in the shape of a very big stick.

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