|“$14,000? What $14,000? Oh yeah, THAT $14,000. OK, just say he was money laundering, threaten him with the DEA, and we’ll keep the cash.”
Here’s a scenario which, unfortunately, could become all too familiar in the near future. A pot-phobic local police department, still angry and in denial over the legalization of medical marijuana, steals — I mean, “seizes” — cash from a dispensary owner, accuses him of “money laundering,” and threatens to call in federal agents if the owner squawks.
Sound unlikely? Guess again. And welcome to Colorado Springs, Colorado.
A medical marijuana dispensary owner said he intends to sue the Colorado Springs Police Department over what he said was the illegal seizure of $14,000.
|Photo: Berita Hairan
|“No, you’re not under arrest. Just give us all your money… because you were ‘money laundering’! Yeah, that’s it! ‘Money laundering!'”
Doctor’s Orders and dispensary co-owner Robert Pooler plan to ask for $120,000 in damages from the city, reports Carlyn Ray Mitchell at The Colorado Springs Gazette
. The money, proceeds from Pooler’s medical marijuana business, was confiscated from him during a traffic stop.
Pooler said his car was illegally searched on June 30 after an officer saw a near-collision between Pooler’s car and another vehicle, according to Pooler’s attorney, Sean McAllister
Pooler parked in a lot and got out of his car. When the officer asked for Pooler’s license and proof of insurance, Pooler told the officer it was in the vehicle, at which point the officer went to the car and discovered the bank bag of money, McAllister said.
Many national banks are closing the accounts of medical marijuana dispensaries in order to avoid moving “marijuana money” across state lines, since cannabis is illegal under federal law, McAllister said. Pooler’s bank account in Denver had been closed, and Pooler was moving his money to a Colorado Springs bank at the time of the incident, the attorney said.
|Photo: McAllister Law Office, P.C.
|Attorney Sean McAllister: “It’s not money laundering if it’s legal under Colorado state law. This is basically theft.”
Pooler wasn’t arrested, but a police sergeant who called McAllister after police seized (stole) the money told McAllister police were “investigating Pooler for money laundering.”
“It’s not money laundering if it’s legal under Colorado state law,” McAllister said. “This is basically theft.”
The officer also threatened to get the federal Drug Enforcement Administration involved, despite the federal government’s current policy of not pursuing medical marijuana cases in states where it is legal, McAllister said.
Police have also seized Pooler’s bank account, according to McAllister, making it impossible for him to deposit money from his marijuana dispensaries in Denver and Colorado Springs.
“This is legal money,” McAllister said. “It is legal in the state of Colorado. This is a city police officer that should be enforcing the constitution of our state and not enforce federal law.”
Pooler’s notice of intent to sue gives the city 90 days to respond to his demand for repayment.
“If they don’t see the light here, my client is willing to litigate his rights,” McAllister said.
“Our hope is that they will see the light and resolve this short of a lawsuit, but if they don’t, I think my clients are willing to teach them a lesson and show them how to comply with state law,” McAllister said, reports Bryce Crawford at the Colorado Springs Independent
The Colorado Springs Police Department, predictably, declined to comment.
Tensions between Colorado Springs police and dispensary owners have been very high in recent months.
In May, police searched seven medical marijuana dispensaries, supposedly as part of some unspecified “ongoing investigation.”
Medical marijuana advocates said they were blind-sided by the raids, and that the searches were politically motivated.
No arrests were made in those searches, either.