The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Crouse on Thursday, December 19, 2013.
Medical Marijuana—Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14(2)(e)—Controlled Substances Act—Supremacy Clause.
During a search of defendant’s home, Colorado Springs police officers seized marijuana and marijuana plants. The prosecution charged defendant with one felony count of cultivation of more than thirty marijuana plants and one felony count of possession of between 5 and 100 pounds of marijuana with the intent to distribute. At trial, defendant raised an affirmative defense that Colo. Const. art. XVIII, § 14 (MM Amendment) expressly authorized his possession, because he was a medical marijuana patient and the marijuana that he possessed was medically necessary to treat his condition. The jury acquitted him of both charges.
Relying on § 14(2)(e) of the MM Amendment, defendant moved the trial court to order the police to return the seized marijuana plants and marijuana. Section 14(2)(e) requires the return of marijuana seized from a medical marijuana patient to the patient if a jury acquits the patient of state criminal drug charges arising from the seized marijuana (return provision). The trial court agreed and ordered the police to return the seized items, which they did.
On appeal, the prosecution contended that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 USC §§ 801 et seq., preempts the return provision. The Court of Appeals rejected this contention for three reasons. First, the CSA cannot be used to preempt a state law under the obstacle preemption doctrine. Second, even if obstacle preemption applies, CSA § 885(d), which prevents federal prosecution of “any duly authorized officer of any State . . . who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law . . . relating to controlled substances,” would preclude applying prohibitions in other CSA sections to police officers complying with a court order issued under the return provision. Third, and making the same assumption, the recipient patient’s involvement in the return process also does not create obstacle preemption because the federal government could not commandeer state officials to seize and hold marijuana, and the MM Amendment does not require patients to either demand return or accept returned marijuana. Therefore, the trial court’s order was affirmed.
Summary and full case available here.