The Trump White House has sent the DEA to fetch it some info on Colorado’s cannabis crimes. That’s according to an email from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Denver field office to senior assistant attorney general Michael Melito, and reported on by the Denver Post.
The email requests that the state of Colorado hand over case numbers related to several specific cannabis-related prosecutions. “Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration,” the email reads. “Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.”
Though most of the cases requested by the DEA email were redacted (crossed out) before they got to the press, two remained on the list for the public to see, both listed in code names: “Texas THC” and “Golden Gopher.”
In typical current White House imprecision, the second case seems to be a reference to a joint state-federal prosecution dating back to 2015 and known as “Operation Golden Go-fer.” That case involved illegal weed grown in Colorado and shipped out to Minnesota, making it a federal case because of the drug trafficking, which makes it the business of the federal government. The name “Texas THC’ might suggest that it too involves interstate trafficking.
What exactly the new presidential administration wants with this information is a mystery. President Trump, for his part, has said on more than one occasion (while campaigning) that he wished to leave marijuana legalization up to the individual state, telling KUSA-TV in Colorado that when it came to cannabis, “I think it’s up to the states, yeah. I’m a states person. I think it should be up to the states, absolutely.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been singing a different tune, a much less upbeat one, that goes something like this: “Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws,” the Attorney General said last month. “So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide.”
A Colorado Attorney General spokesperson told the Post that the email was about particular cases and not future federal tactics toward marijuana. “Our office has a long-standing relationship with the DEA, as it is our role to prosecute illegal drug cases,” Anita Skinner said. “The change in administration at the federal level has not changed that relationship. This email was clearly discussing current criminal cases not policy.”
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office declined to say what information, specifically, was given to the DEA, noting that she cannot comment, “on any discussions that may or may not have been had in regards to ongoing criminal cases.” She also declined to say whether the DEA has made other information requests on behalf of the Trump administration.
However, in an e-mail, spokeswoman Annie Skinner cast the message as part of the office’s normal partnership with the DEA.
“Our office has a long-standing relationship with the DEA, as it is our role to prosecute illegal drug cases,” Skinner wrote. “The change in administration at the federal level has not changed that relationship. This email was clearly discussing current criminal cases not policy.”
Most of the cases for which the e-mail requests information are redacted in the copy released to the International Business Times. But two cases are identified by their code names: “Golden Gopher” and “Texas THC.”
The former appears to be a reference to a 2015 joint state-federal case that has also been referred to as “Operation Golden Go-fer.” It involved 32 people indicted for alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar scheme to grow marijuana illegally in Colorado and ship it out of state, mostly to Minnesota. Though the grows for the ring were not licensed under state law, they were located in warehouse areas popular with state-legal growers. Law enforcement officials later cited the case as an example of illegal growers trying to take advantage of Colorado’s marijuana laws and hide in plain sight.
How the Trump administration will deal with Colorado’s legal marijuana system has been a source of anxiety for many in the state’s cannabis industry. While Trump indicated on the campaign trail that he supports state’s rights on the matter, statements by his press secretary and by new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have hinted at a stricter approach.
“Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws,” Sessions said last month. “So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide.”
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, though, has said he’s not sure the federal government can overturn marijuana legalization in the state, and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has invited the feds to come to the state to learn more about its marijuana laws, which she has said she will defend if necessary.
Skinner said no visit has yet taken place.