Published: March 9, 2017

In late January, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers cannot return marijuana that has been seized during the course of law enforcement duties, including both recreational and medical marijuana.

Due to this ruling, law enforcement agencies across the state, including CU Boulder Police, will no longer return seized marijuana.

The new policy affects people who are cited or arrested for marijuana charges as well as people charged with other crimes who have marijuana in their possession.

In its decision, the court acknowledged that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) provided immunity for officers who are “lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law . . . relating to controlled substances.”

But the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that returning marijuana is only lawful if “it complies with both state and federal law.” Distribution of marijuana, whether medical or recreational, is not legal under federal law. The court determined that returning marijuana, even after a defendant is acquitted, is similar to distribution of a controlled substance.

The ruling stemmed from a 2011 Colorado Springs criminal case, as outlined in an article from The Denver Post.