Justice Department Formally Threatens State-Licensed Colorado Cannabis Providers

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director January 12, 2012

    In December I blogged about rumors that the Obama Justice Department was finalizing plans to expand its recent crackdown on medical cannabis producers and providers to include state-licensed facilities in Colorado. Today, the federal government made good on its threats.

    According to numerous media reports, federal authorities today issued warning letters to 23 state-licensed dispensaries in Colorado stating that “action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property” if they continue operating within 1,000 feet of a school. The letters, sent by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, say that the dispensaries have 45 days from today to close shop or face federal sanction.

    It states, in part:

    “Federal law prohibits the manufacture, distribution, and possession of marijuana. … (This) dispensary is operating in violation of federal law, and the department of Justice has the authority to enforce federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law. Persons … who operate or facilitate the operation of such dispensaries are subject to criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions under federal law. Moreover, because the dispensary is operating within 1,000 feet of a school, enhanced federal penalties apply.

    … This letter … constitutes formal notice that action will be taken to seize and forfeit (your) property if you do not cause the sale and/or distribution of marijuana and marijuana-infused substances at (this) location to be discontinued.”

    While the federal government in recent months has utilized similar tactics to close down cannabis providers in California and has also coordinated DEA-led raids of dispensaries in other states, most notably in Washington and Montana, today’s efforts mark the first time that the federal authorities have specifically targeted facilities that are operating explicitly under a state license. (To date, only officials in the states of Colorado, Maine, and New Mexico have formally issued licenses to authorized cannabis providers.) It is estimated that that some 700 state licensed dispensaries are presently operating in Colorado.

    Once again, the federal government’s actions belie the administration’s claim that it only intends to target those medical cannabis operators that “use marijuana in a way that’s not consistent with the state statute.” In this case, the operations in question were grandfathered in under local or state regulations. They are acting in compliance with state law and explicitly with the state’s permission.

    Nonetheless, the imprimatur of the state apparently carries little if any weight with the Obama administration, whose first priority in Colorado appears to be matters of zoning enforcement.

    Legislating medical marijuana operations and prosecuting those who act in a manner that is inconsistent with state law and voters’ sentiment should be a responsibility left to the state and local officials, not the federal government. It is time for this administration to fulfill the assurances it gave to the medical cannabis community and to respect the decisions of voters and lawmakers in states that recognize its therapeutic efficacy.

    74 responses to “Justice Department Formally Threatens State-Licensed Colorado Cannabis Providers”

    1. JK says:

      I wonder if liquor stores are under the same constraints ?
      And… yes were is the state government and law enforcement when their citizens need protection.

    2. Anonymous says:


      Since pharmaceuticals & liquor cause ( by far ) more suicides, murders & health related deaths than marijuana can you tell us if Pharmacies & liquor stores are also banned from operating within 1,000 feet of schools ?

      ” Pharmacies in Berkeley,Ca. like elsewhere, also sell groceries, stationery supplies, and household goods in addition to medicine. Many also sell alcohol, which is another reason, Mayor Tom Bates is interested in limiting their locations “. http://www.berkeleyside.com/2011/04/18/will-pharmacy-war-lead-to-new-restrictions-in-berkeley/

      Mayor, Bates has got the right idea but no mention of schools for limiting their locations .

    3. War Vet says:

      They say pot is really good for PTSD and getting back to normal or NORML life. If the DEA do this then they will violate the VA’s position on allowing medical pot for vets and if the DEA does this, then this is a non-violent form of domestic terrorism since the terrorists would love nothing than to have our vets be unhappy and in distress for the rest of our lives, something random pot use could help out with.

    4. Anonymous says:

      Mayor’s Letter Calls For Hearings of DEA :

      In a move reflecting the city’s supportive stance as a sanctuary for medical marijuana, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates wrote a letter last Thursday urging the federal government to stop the Drug Enforcement Administration from intervening with the work of dispensaries.

      Bates wrote the letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers calling for congressional hearings about letters the agency sent that threatened landlords renting to medical marijuana dispensaries.

      The landlords of dispensaries, three of which are in Berkeley, were threatened with property forfeiture or criminal prosecution.

      “This is really a back-door way to try to eliminate access to medical marijuana,” said Julie Sinai, chief of staff to Bates. “We want Congressman Conyers to call for hearings to get the (agency) to focus on issues of hard drug use and serious drug offenses instead of targeting medical marijuana dispensaries.”

      Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access, said the agency has raided upwards of 100 dispensaries across California with more than 50 occurring-forcing many to close.

      The agency’s threatening letters led the City Council to pass a resolution on Jan. 29 declaring Berkeley a sanctuary for medical marijuana patients and dispensaries.

      “Medical marijuana is a proven medication that helps alleviate a number of chronic diseases,” Sinai said. “The city of Berkeley feels that residents should be able to get the medications that they need with the supervision of (doctors).”

      “Twelve years after (the act) passed, we are still living in fear (of raids),” said Becky DeKeuster, community liaison for the dispensary, Berkeley Patients Group. “(The) situation is unjust and we welcome congressional oversight into what’s happening here, so we are very grateful to the mayor for taking a stand.”

      Officials at Berkeley dispensaries said they were targeted although they were operating legally under state law.

      “They focused in areas like Berkeley … where dispensaries have shown that they can be positive members of the community,” DeKeuster said.

      Bates’ letter is the fifth in a string of requests already sent to Conyers by the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Cruz and West Hollywood.

      “It’s good to see that local and regional leadership is all on the same page on this issue,” said Michael Hunt, spokesperson for Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums. “It’s the responsibility of the state and local governments to uphold the will of voters and adopt sensible guidelines to regulate the provision of medical cannabis in our communities.”

    5. True American says:

      Unfortunately, the Medical marijuana movement has no one but themselves to blame for the Fed’s actions. The movements inablity to self regulate and provide medicine to those patients that where infact sick and not the droves of young fradulent patients that used the states bill to acquire legal cannibus that was designated for the sick and or dieing.

      The outcome was truly shamefull and those fraudulent patients standing inline with truly sick and terminally ill patients should bow their heads.

      Now partly do to such selfish actions those in need will have to go without and instead ingest the posion that the big Pharm companies spew out so readly.

      Legalize it and be done with it – the MM movement is NOT SUSTAINABLE. A NORML was this is why I stopped donating one and a half years ago – PAUL your smater than this.

    6. Goofstr says:

      Even after Fast and Furious. When they’ve been found guilty of aiding known drug cartels in getting guns, and being aware of money laundering cartel money.

      They now have the gall to attack American citizens, that have been approved by their phycician to take cannabis to alleviate their pain and suffering, by systematicly eliminating their source of medicine. With the fact that their state system is so well registered and regulated that it doesn’t make any reasonable sense for them to expend all the money and people to start, what can only be considered terrorist attacks on the citizens of Colorado, who seam to be doing just fine on their own. The polls have shown that a medical marijuana/cannabis system such as Coloarado’s, is exceptable to a majority of Americans.

      For them to continue this farce, there most be some under lying profit motive that is very well hidden from the general public.

      I feel the best approach would be to stand strognly united, and except No plea bargains. Every single person demands their day in court. The huge burden on the prosecutor, the courts, manpower and the Huge cost of prosecution will be hard to justify.

      This is a very heavy burden for the people of Colorado to bare on their own. But, if they can do this. The national attention this will get, will put a very bright spot light on this travesty of justice. That, ironicly, is being done by the Dept. of Justice.

      I believe that in time, President Obama will become considered the least compassionate President to have held office. A complete 180 degree turn from his position during his bid for the Presidency. I am still not quite sure why this has come about, but I do know it has to end imediately.

      At this time the only person who has put it on the line, that he will start the end of the drug war, especially marijuna/cannabis prohibition.

      Of coures I am talking about DR. Ron Paul.

      By seconding H.R.2306, he has proven his desire to end cannabis prohibition. Where Obama used words, Paul has used action.

      I was always told, your actions speak so loud, I can’t hear a thing your saying.

    7. David Aquarius says:

      Don’t look to Ron Paul for the answer. Just because a candidate make some noise in support of our cause doesn’t make them a savior. A Paul admin would be as bad or worse than Bush.
      Our best hope is to occupy the Justice Dept. Call out Obama and his lackey Attn Gen for their lies. We need a progressive govt, not another right wing cadre of criminals

    8. Bruno Tam says:

      It’s time for states to stand up to this federal bulling and put the federal government on notice . What could Obama do if the governor of Colorado says no and arrests federal agents . Send his killer drones to attack the citizens of Colorado . All these states have to do is say HELL NO ! and Obama could do nothing .
      End the war on the American people/drugs .

    9. palemalemarcher says:

      There is still time to consider the violence done to the effort petitioning at the crack of dawn to redress, peaceably this grievance. Mr. US Atty. the voters are not know nothings on this issue!

    10. Ron Paul 2012 says:

      You know 4 years ago I was here begging you guys not to believe the Obama supported medical Marijuana lies. I posted links to the video that supposedly showed Obama supported Medical weed so you could see he really did not.

      Now Obama’s running for president again only he doesn’t need to please us anymore. He knows Damn well we’re not going to vote for hairdo. so he’s busting all the dispensaries because it will help him in November when he’s running against Romney.

      Don’t wait until all you have is a choice between a Hairdo and a TelePrompter Zombie.

      Support Ron Paul! He was with us in 2008, hell he was with us in 1978. PLEASE this time around don’t throw your vote away. Vote for Ron Paul, support him like he’s been supporting you.

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