Feds silent on enforcement shift in Junction, Palisade

QUICKREAD

“The Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.” — issued Nov. 7, Jeff Dorschner, spokesman, U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.

 

“The focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement is on combating large-scale drug trafficking organizations. Federal law enforcement works side by side with state and local law enforcement on drug trafficking cases every day, and greatly values that strong relationship. We will continue to work with Colorado’s state and local law enforcement to assess whether specific drug trafficking cases merit federal resources.” — issued Nov. 15, Jeff Dorschner, spokesman, U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver.



Federal authorities were mum on new police policy in Grand Junction and Palisade ending ounce-or-less marijuana enforcement ahead of Amendment 64 becoming law, in conflict with federal drug laws.

This, as muddled federal messages continue to emerge.

Approached for comment on the Grand Junction Police Department’s and Palisade Police Department’s abrupt change in enforcement, the U.S. Attorney’s Office suggested it’s disinterested in the move.

“The focus of the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement is on combating large-scale drug trafficking organizations,” Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, said Thursday.

“Federal law enforcement works side by side with state and local law enforcement on drug trafficking cases every day, and greatly values that strong relationship,” he added. “We’ll continue to work with Colorado’s state and local law enforcement to assess whether specific drug trafficking cases merit federal resources.”

Colorado voters on Nov. 6 approved legalizing possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana and up to 6 plants. The next day, Dorschner issued a statement saying the intent of the U.S. Justice Department to enforce federal laws making all marijuana possession or sale illegal “remains unchanged.”

Dorschner insisted the statement of Nov. 7 and the statement issued Thursday to The Daily Sentinel are consistent.

“(There’s) absolutely no shift in policy,” he said Friday.

In a directive crafted by police administration and the city attorney’s office, Grand Junction police officers were told effective Nov. 9 to stop citing persons possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana, or 6 plants or less, consistent with language of Amendment 64. Such tickets were petty offenses under state law, punishable by a maximum $100 fine. Officers were also told, with a supervisor’s approval, they can forward an offense report and request for prosecution to federal prosecutors. Federal possession cases seem “unlikely,” the directive noted.

The Grand Junction directive also noted public consumption of marijuana is still illegal and enforceable. Officers can also still issue citations for possession of drug paraphernalia.

Amendment 64 is expected to become law when the results of the Nov. 6 general election are certified, which must happen no later than Dec. 6.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Department as of Wednesday was enforcing existing state marijuana law, while the Fruita Police Department signaled no immediate change.

“We are still evaluating the information,” Police Chief Mark Angelo said Friday.


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