A report yesterday from the Denver Post says the U.S. Attorney for Colorado prosecuted essentially the same amount of marijuana-related crimes before the boom as after; numbers that are consistent with overall prosecutions nationwide.
The story was done in light of U.S. Attorney John Walsh's recent letter to the Colorado Legislature stating any operation breaking federal law faced potential prosecution. (The DOJ would likely continue to leave small-time participants, and folks "in clear and unambiguous compliance" with their state's laws, alone.)
But the truth is that very little has changed in the Justice Department's marijuana position, regardless of the memo or the subsequent letters, said Robert Mikos, a Vanderbilt University law professor who studies the intersection of medical-marijuana and federal power. The federal government reserves the authority to bust anyone selling marijuana. It just doesn't do it very often.
As Mikos found in a 2009 study, federal agents made only about 7,000 marijuana arrests nationwide in 2007 — out of 154,000 total arrests, including 30,000 drug arrests.