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May 9, 2011 4:11 PM by Matt Stafford

MMJ bill still alive despite pressure from the Fed

Despite a letter from Denver's U.S. Attorney last week, Colorado legislators are still considering marijuana legislation. House Bill 1043 is in the Senate after passing the House. H.B. 1043 says it's intended to clarify the "Colorado Medical Marijuana Code"; adjusting several regulations for the industry including new licensing requirements for businesses. It's seen as a follow-up to H.B. 10-1284 that was passed during last year's legislature.

U.S. Attorney Walsh sent a letter to Governor John Hickenlooper, Attorney General John Suthers, and lawmakers saying that marijuana is still listed as Schedule I on the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), therefore federally illegal. Walsh says the Department of Justice won't be going after the "seriously ill," but they will go after and prosecute illegal growing and selling of marijuana. Walsh indicates that the business-end of medical marijuana is illegal.

Local industry advocates acknowledge that marijuana is still federally illegal, but they say that this sends mixed signals from the government's pervious stances.

In October 2009, the Department of Justice told U.S. Attorneys in states with medical marijuana laws that they should focus prosecution efforts on illegal drugs and trafficking organizations, but not the seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law. Walsh reminded Colorado officials of the previous memo in his letter, but also pointed out that a state can't permit violations of federal law.

Walsh pointed to several issues in H.B. 1043 that are illegal; permitting conduct contrary to federal law and licensing facilities to produce products that are federally illegal. He threatened possible legal penalties for passing H.B 1043.

NF5 spoke to Senator John Morse Monday morning about the progress of H.B. 1043. He said he thinks Walsh's letter will have an impact on votes; however, he says that's if they get to it. The session ends Wednesday and Morse says redistricting is going to take up a lot of the conversation. He says time is crucial and there's a chance the bill might not make it through it the process in time.

News First 5 is speaking to people on both sides of this issue, we'll hear from them Monday evening on News First 5.

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