Feds Announce Colorado Medical Marijuana Crackdown



​Some on Colorado’s medical marijuana scene have speculated that the fact that the Rocky Mountain State’s medicinal cannabis law is part of their state constitution — or maybe the state’s vigorous regulatory scheme — protected them from the ongoing federal crackdown. Looks like it’s time for a new theory.

The U.S. Attorney’s office today announced a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, the most aggressive federal law enforcement action yet against the cannabis-centered businesses in that state, reports John Ingold at The Denver Post.

U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent letters to 23 dispensaries which his office claimed are located with 1,000 feet of schools. The dispensaries were told they had 45 days to close or face criminal prosecution and property forfeiture.
“When the voters of Colorado passed the limited medical marijuana amendment in 2000, they could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores located within blocks of our schools,” Walsh lied in a statement announcing the crackdown. (I get really weary and annoyed with this threadbare “the poor ignorant voters didn’t know what they were voting for” argument.)

Back in December, an unnamed law enforcement official had told The Associated Press that exactly such a crackdown was being considered for Colorado this year, reported The Huffington Post. The official did not want to be identified, and provided no specific details because, at that time, the matter was “still under review.”

Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post
Attorney Rob Corry: “[T]he federal government is essentially declaring war on the voters of our state (who) passed a Constitutional amendment”

​At that time, Toke of the Town reported that a crackdown was on the way, only to be pooh-poohed by certain elements, mostly within the Colorado scene, which seem to be in deep denial.
The action flies in the face of theories postulating that since Colorado’s medical marijuana law is a constitutional amendment, it has protected the state from the feds.
The targeted dispensaries are all reportedly located within 1,000 feet of schools. That rule is apparently being used because that distance already appears in federal law as a factor in “drug crime” sentencing.
It follows the same curious pattern the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) has used in other medical marijuana states. The federal government officially classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with a high danger of abuse and no medical value, and thus it’s illegal for any purpose. That means all dispensaries are violating federal law.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado
U.S. Attorney John Walsh’s office sent the letter threatening 23 dispensaries if they don’t shut down

​But for whatever reason — perhaps widespread public opposition to the DEA’s mission to destroy safe cannabis access for patients? — the feds have so far felt the need to justify their raids on dispensaries by singling out shops that are supposedly violating some additional rule or other, such as the 1,000-foot limit.
The move comes after the DOJ sent out a memo “clarifying” that marijuana “has been and remains illegal under federal law,” despite its medical legalization in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
Many of Colorado’s dispensaries are within 1,000 feet of a school, but have already been approved under local laws. They have usually been grandfathered in.
Rob Corry, an attorney representing dispensaries, said the medical marijuana shops are already strictly regulated under Colorado law.
“The federal apparatus here has better things to do,” Corry said in December. “My reaction would be the federal government is essentially declaring war on the voters of our state (who) passed a Constitutional amendment.”
U.S. Attorneys in California, Washington, Rhode Island and other states recently announced crackdowns in which they would be targeting landlords who rent space to marijuana dispensaries, as well as dispensary operators and owners.
Update: Denver Westword has published a redacted copy of U.S. Attorney John Walsh’s letter to the 23 medical marijuana dispensaries. To read the letter, click here.