Colorado may have legalized recreational marijuana, but this hasn’t completely destroyed the black market yet and law enforcement are still required to shut down illegal operations. This means that an enormous amount of marijuana gets collected to be stored in police storage facilities. Not all of this marijuana can be adequately cared for and a lot of it molds and spoils in storage. It requires police officers to need protection from the mold when dealing with it and often the mold spreads through the storage area. Evidence requirements in the state of Colorado require police to take proper care of seized cannabis, which is sometimes dried and sometimes still in plant form. Police have argued that they don’t have the proper facilities for care and they are running out of space to hold the evidence.
Citing the Controlled Substances Act
The State Supreme Court made a ruling on Monday that relieved Colorado police officers and upset the public. The Court ruled that police can now destroy all marijuana collected during a raid or any other type of confiscation. Whether or not the person was found innocent or guilty, their marijuana is to be destroyed. The ruling bases itself in the fact that Colorado cannabis is still illegal on a federal level. This means that in returning the confiscated marijuana, police would be handing back an illegal drug, violating federal law. The Controlled Substances Act still classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, having no medicinal use and on par with heroin.
Colorado Cannabis as a “Hazardous Material”
Officers cheered the decision, stating that the storage issues they face make it difficult to adequately investigate or stop the black market from operating within the state. The confiscated Colorado cannabis has overfilled their evidence rooms and created health risks. Last year, the sheriff’s office seized 7,256 cannabis plants. Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor talked about the issue, saying, “It becomes a hazardous material as it molds and sweats and we have to have proper protective gear to handle it.”
The 2011 Case at the Ruling’s Origin
The Court ruling comes from a case that started in 2011, where a medical marijuana patient had his plants confiscated. It turned out that he was growing the large quantity of plants to make oil for his leukemia. When he had all the plants returned to him, he was horrified to find them all rotten. He complained that police hadn’t given his plants the same respect that other personal property would have received.
Rob Corry, a Denver based attorney who has fought numerous marijuana related criminal cases and helped write Colorado cannabis Amendment 64, which legalized recreational marijuana, was concerned over the ruling. He said by the logic given at the trial, licensing anyone to grow or sell marijuana makes the state a “drug kingpin” for distributing the marijuana related licenses. “The decision could place in jeopardy this entire system that has been created through legislative action and Amendment 64,” he said. Other marijuana groups are unhappy with the decision. The Southern Colorado Cannabis Council said that they fear this will lead to a surge in marijuana raids. For now the decision stands and time will tell how the repercussions of the ruling play out.