Feds visit Colorado to research marijuana regulation, black market, enforcement

Colorado officials who oversee the state’s marijuana agencies are sharing details about a fact-finding visit earlier this week by federal law enforcement and drug policy administrators.

Related: Feds hold closed-doors meetings with Colorado officials known to have doubts about weed

Five representatives from the federal government met Tuesday morning in Denver with nearly two-dozen state officials for a 2-and-a-half-hour meeting about Colorado’s legal marijuana regime, said Mark Bolton, marijuana advisor to Gov. John Hickenlooper. The meeting preceded a similarly focused closed-door gathering on Wednesday between federal agents and government officials in Colorado Springs, according to KKTV 11 and the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Bolton told The Cannabist that Tuesday’s meeting resulted from Hickenlooper’s request to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April to visit Colorado to get a first-hand look at the state’s first-of-a-kind attempt to regulate and tax adult-use marijuana sales.

“Our purpose was to convey to them the strength of our regulatory system and our enforcement system and our policies and practices,” said Bolton, who was among the meeting’s attendees on Tuesday.

Those discussions spanned the comprehensive nature of the state system, efforts to cull gray and black market activity, and the establishment of youth prevention and adult education campaigns, Bolton said. The federal officials were especially interested in the state’s responses to unexpected issues as well as the public education campaigns, he added.

The federal officials did not broach the topic of any immediate or future federal enforcement activities, he said.

The federal agents present represented the deputy attorney general, the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the Domestic Policy Council and the State Department. Colorado officials included the state’s attorney general and representatives from agencies such as the Department of Revenue, Department of Public Health and Environment, Department of Public Safety, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Department of Regulatory Agencies, Bolton said.

“I think (the federal officials) viewed this as an educational opportunity,” he said.

The meetings came to light following a report Wednesday by KKTV 11 in Colorado Springs. Earlier in the day, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, the city’s police chief and local community members met in private with representatives from several federal agencies, according to the KKTV 11 report.

“A lot of it was around sensitive case investigations; that’s another reason why it couldn’t be public,” Suthers told KKTV 11. “So without getting into that, I would tell you that probably most of the discussion centered around the huge black market that exists for marijuana in Colorado.”

It was not immediately clear how or whether the discussions would factor into a report due to Sessions next week from a Justice Department task force convened to review policies in the areas of violent crime, immigration and drug trafficking.

Department of Justice officials could not be immediately reached Thursday for comment.

Aleta Labak contributed to this report.

This story is developing and will be updated.

Watch Hickenlooper’s full interview with Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press Daily” in April 2017:



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