New relaxed marijuana laws in Washington and Colorado have helped lead to new policies by the U.S. Justice Department, allowing states to regulate the drug, as long as they keep it away from children, the black market and off federal property.

marijuana and a joint
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

U S. Attorney for Montana Mike Cotter said Friday, August 30, that this new policy in no way affects the marijuana prosecutions and convictions his office has won in the past three years.

"What the Department of Justice did yesterday was issue new updated guidelines for marijuana enforcement," Cotter said. "The department is trying to make sure that the charging decisions regarding federal drug laws would be uniform across all 50 states."

Cotter does not believe even the revised enforcement guidelines would have stopped his office from pursuing individuals he thought were guilty of federal drug crimes over the past three years, because the suspects were never actually in compliance with Montana's medical marijuana laws.

"All of the suspects were guilty of one or more of the following crimes," Cotter said. "They were felons operating marijuana groves, manufacturing hashish, using guns in furtherance of drug trafficking, violence, or threats of violence, selling dope in greater quantities than was allowed, and paying their workers off with drugs. They were also doing financial structuring to avoid federal laws, money laundering, and there were some that were also tied to organized crime."

Cotter said the suspects had taken advantage of Montanans who simply wanted to help those suffering from pain through medical marijuana.

"In essence, what was happening was the folks who were prosecuted and convicted were profiteers who had commandeered the Montana medical marijuana statute," Cotter said. "The federal government is not going to be prosecuting individuals with small quantities of marijuana. The federal government's focus and priority is the detection, disruption and dismantling of drug trafficking organizations, and, that's what we did in the operations that we initiated in 2010 and completed in the spring of 2013."

U.S. Attorney for the State of Montana Mike Cotter:

More From KMMS-KPRK 1450 AM