Colorado may have legal marijuana, but the police no longer have to keep any weed they seize in a criminal investigation, according to a state Supreme Court decision, which essentially overturns years of so-called evidence requirements.
Monday’s ruling reverses a lower court decision that police officers could not simply destroy pot after they confiscate andor use it as evidence in a case.
While in their possession, the Colorado police were obliged to take care of the seized marijuana, either by keeping the plants alive or in dried usable form. The cops then had to return it to defendants who won their cases.
Colorado police have complained that they were running out of space to store the confiscated weed.
The cops cheered Monday’s decision, reported the Gazette. They had often complained that the evidence rule made it impossible for them to investigate black-market weed growers, because they would be responsible for keeping and caring for any weed or plants they seized.
“There are times when we cannot confirm who is entitled to what,” Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson said in a statement on behalf of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police.
According to the ruling written by Colorado Supreme Court Judge Allison Eid, a potential Trump Supreme Court nominee, returning marijuana to defendants after they win their case would cause law enforcement officials to break the federal Controlled Substances Act, which maintains the status of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, the same as heroin.
“Thus compliance with the return provision necessarily requires law enforcement officers to violate federal law,” read the decision.
In the 4-3 decision, three dissenting justices argued that police are not violating federal drug law when they return marijuana property. They said the Controlled Substances Act “immunizes federal and state officers from civil and criminal liability in the circumstances at issue here.”
The ruling stems from a 2011 criminal case in which a Colorado Springs man was arrested for growing and possessing more than the legal number of marijuana plants (30).
The man was later acquitted on the basis that he was a registered medical marijuana patient and protected under state law. But he lost more than 60 pounds of marijuana that the police were holding during the case and then were returned to him full of mold after his case was won.
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