Sorry, Sessions: Colorado’s top federal prosecutor not interested in changing marijuana enforcement

Recreational marijuana is legal under state law.

Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer speaks in 2012.  (Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Colorado U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer speaks in 2012. (Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III plans to rescind an Obama-era memo, which discourages federal prosecutors from bringing many marijuana prosecutions in states where cannabis is legal. According to the AP, Sessions wants to “let federal prosecutors where pot is legal decide how aggressively to enforce federal marijuana law.”

At least one top prosecutor signaled Thursday afternoon, however, that he has little interest in stepping up marijuana prosecutions. Bob Troyer, the United States Attorney for the District of Colorado, emphasized in a statement that he does not anticipate many changes.

Today the Attorney General rescinded the Cole Memo on marijuana prosecutions, and directed that federal marijuana prosecution decisions be governed by the same principles that have long governed all of our prosecution decisions.  The United States Attorney’s Office in Colorado has already been guided by these principles in marijuana prosecutions — focusing in particular on identifying and prosecuting those who create the greatest safety threats to our communities around the state.  We will, consistent with the Attorney General’s latest guidance, continue to take this approach in all of our work with our law enforcement partners throughout Colorado.

(Emphasis added by ThinkProgress)

Though Troyer’s statement does not disavow future marijuana prosecutions entirely, it goes out of its way to indicate that his office does not expect to change its existing approach to marijuana — an approach which has allowed many marijuana dispensaries to operate in Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal under state law.


Troyer, it is worth noting, has a fairly apolitical resume. Since graduating from law school, he’s bounced back and forth between career prosecutor jobs and major law firms. He spent most of the Obama years as Colorado’s First Assistant U.S. Attorney, the #2 federal prosecutor in the state, before taking over the office as Acting U.S. Attorney near the tail end of the Obama presidency.

Sessions appointed Troyer to serve as a full-fledged U.S. Attorney in November, though that appointment only lasts 120 days. If no one is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate to lead the office at the end of those 120 days, a U.S. Attorney will be chosen by the federal district court in Colorado.

In practice, this means that Troyer’s tenure in his current role could be short — and that he could potentially be replaced with someone who has much more of a political resume. For the time being, however, Colorado’s U.S. Attorney’s office seems not especially eager to step up marijuana prosecutions.