District Attorney George Brauchler speaks during an 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office news conference at the Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver Field Division to discuss indictments concerning illegal marijuana cultivation and distribution. (Andy Cross, The Denver Post)

DEA asks Colorado for info on marijuana crimes, “for the new administration”

Amid speculation about how the Trump administration will confront marijuana legalization in states such as Colorado, a Drug Enforcement Administration supervisor has sent an e-mail to a prosecutor in the state attorney general’s office seeking information, “for the new administration.”

The e-mail was sent early last month by a supervisor on the financial investigations team in the DEA’s Denver field office to Michael Melito, a senior assistant attorney general. The e-mail asks for Melito to provide case numbers for several prosecutions relating to marijuana, including one that involved multiple people charged with growing pot illegally in Colorado and then shipping it out of state.

The e-mail was first reported by the International Business Times, which obtained it through an open records request.

“Some of our intel people are trying to track down info regarding some of DEA’s better marijuana investigations for the new administration,” the e-mail states. “Hopefully it will lead to some positive changes.”

A spokeswoman for the state attorney general’s office declined to say what information, specifically, was given to the DEA, noting that she cannot comment, “on any discussions that may or may not have been had in regards to ongoing criminal cases.” She also declined to say whether the DEA has made other information requests on behalf of the Trump administration.

However, in an e-mail, spokeswoman Annie Skinner cast the message as part of the office’s normal partnership with the DEA.

“Our office has a long-standing relationship with the DEA, as it is our role to prosecute illegal drug cases,” Skinner wrote. “The change in administration at the federal level has not changed that relationship. This email was clearly discussing current criminal cases not policy.”

Most of the cases for which the e-mail requests information are redacted in the copy released to the International Business Times. But two cases are identified by their code names: “Golden Gopher” and “Texas THC.”

The former appears to be a reference to a 2015 joint state-federal case that has also been referred to as “Operation Golden Go-fer.” It involved 32 people indicted for alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar scheme to grow marijuana illegally in Colorado and ship it out of state, mostly to Minnesota. Though the grows for the ring were not licensed under state law, they were located in warehouse areas popular with state-legal growers. Law enforcement officials later cited the case as an example of illegal growers trying to take advantage of Colorado’s marijuana laws and hide in plain sight.

How the Trump administration will deal with Colorado’s legal marijuana system has been a source of anxiety for many in the state’s cannabis industry. While Trump indicated on the campaign trail that he supports state’s rights on the matter, statements by his press secretary and by new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions have hinted at a stricter approach.

“Marijuana is against federal law, and that applies in states where they may have repealed their own anti-marijuana laws,” Sessions said last month. “So yes, we will enforce law in an appropriate way nationwide.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, though, has said he’s not sure the federal government can overturn marijuana legalization in the state, and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman has invited the feds to come to the state to learn more about its marijuana laws, which she has said she will defend if necessary.

Skinner said no visit has yet taken place.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com