The Department of Justice

Attorney General of Colorado
John W. Suthers

April 26, 2011

Governor John Hickenlooper
Colorado State Capitol

Members of the Colorado General Assembly
Colorado State Capitol

Re:  Federal Enforcement of Marijuana Laws

Dear Governor Hickenlooper and Members of the Colorado General Assembly:

I feel compelled to advise you of recent developments in regard to the federal law enforcement position regarding medical marijuana.

As you are aware, in October of 2009 the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo to federal law enforcement (the “Ogden memo”) indicating that, while manufacturing, possession and distribution of marijuana was a violation of federal law, the department would not employ its resources to pursue individuals acting in strict compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

Since the Ogden memo was issued several states, including Colorado, have enacted medical marijuana regulatory schemes that have resulted in explosive growth in the number of persons claiming to be using marijuana for medical purposes. In Colorado for example, there are now approximately 123,000 registered medical marijuana patients. As a result, the DOJ, through various United States Attorneys, has responded to inquiries in order to clarify the scope of the Ogden memo. I am enclosing copies of several such letters, including a letter to me from John Walsh, the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado. These letters indicate that while the Department of Justice will not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law, it does maintain its full authority to vigorously enforce federal law against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law. Of great concern is the fact that some of the letters make clear the U.S. Attorneys do not consider state employees who conduct activities under state medical marijuana laws to be immune from liability under federal law.

The letter from U.S. Attorney Walsh, in addition to sharing the viewpoint of the other U.S. Attorneys about the legality of grow operations and dispensaries, elaborates on his specific concerns regarding Colorado House Bill 1043, currently pending in the General Assembly.

Because this clarification of the Ogden memo raises significant issues regarding the medical marijuana regulatory scheme enacted by the Colorado General Assembly in 2010 (which has resulted in widespread manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana in Colorado) and issues regarding currently pending legislation, I wanted to ensure that you were made aware of these developments as soon as possible


/s/ John W. Suthers
John W. Suthers
Colorado Attorney General


c: Roxy Huber, Executive Director, Department of Revenue
Dr. Christopher E. Urbina, Executive Director, CDPHE



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