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Report of marijuana theft in Colorado raises unique issues

Marijuana was recently legalized in Colorado, and a student at Northeastern Junior College reported that her bag of marijuana had been stolen from her dorm on move-out day. According to the young woman, she had placed a Ziploc bag under her doormat. She noted that the theft likely occurred in the short, three-minute window starting at 7 p.m. on May 9.

The theft in this report was described as being minor, only involving a single gram of marijuana, but this particular police report raises some interesting issues in the context of criminal law. The first question some might have is whether or not an individual can be charged with theft if the item that was stolen was considered illegal either completely or for the person who originally possessed it.

Marijuana is legal for those 21 years and older, but illegal for minors without an authorized exception, like a minor who was issued a state license for medical marijuana. It might be an easier explanation to assume that the substance in this case was cocaine, a drug that is considered illegal for anyone in Colorado. Burglary charges can result from the theft of a controlled substance, like cocaine.

In this case, there is an added layer of possible criminal offense. We noted above that marijuana is still considered illegal for those under the age of 21 absent an authorized license. This young woman was only 19 years old and could not produce one of those medical licenses.

Police noted that if they do recover the allegedly stolen marijuana and confirm the substance to be exactly that, they will most likely charge the student with possession of marijuana. There is no doubt that the law can be entirely confusing, which is why we consult an attorney to help.

Source: The Cannabist, “Real police report: 1 gram of pot stolen,” Ricardo Baca, May 13, 2014

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