Although recreational and medical cannabis are legal in Colorado, that hasn’t stopped state law enforcement from confiscating marijuana plants and products. In fact, last year, the Denver Police Department was actually running out of room to store the massive amount of seized green. Thankfully, Governor John Hickenlooper just took a major step towards protecting state residents from having their money and property taken by the police.
On Friday, the governor approved House Bill 1313, a measure that will create a special task force to analyze and develop policies involving civil asset forfeiture by law enforcement. In the past, the police had been allowed to seize money and property potentially linked to crime, oftentimes before the suspect in question was even charged.
Now, Colorado police agencies will be forced to report seizure information to the state twice a year. Additionally, law enforcement will be prohibited from receiving forfeiture proceeds in cases where property and money confiscated is less than $50,000. Opponents to the bill, namely local police and sheriffs, have argued that this measure will impede on their ability to conduct complex investigations.
But progressive organizations like the ACLU of Colorado and ProgressNow applauded the legislation, which will give state residents greater due-process protections. Although House Bill 1313 received support from both sides of the aisle, the governor felt uncertainty due to the strong opposition by law enforcement. Ultimately, he decided that reforming civil asset forfeiture was in the best interest of his constituents.
However, there were also some measures that didn’t receive the governor’s approval before the legislative session ended. On that same day, Hickenlooper vetoed Senate Bill 111, which sought to change the regulations on how medical marijuana companies could buy and sell cannabis.
The bill was rejected because Hickenlooper believes that it would weaken the state’s ability to track medical product and could risk “destabilizing Colorado medical marijuana markets.” Despite that, residents in the Rocky Mountain State have still won a major victory for civil liberties in the form of HB 1313, especially for those who are involved with cannabis production or use.