The Next State In The Federal Government’s Crosshairs Is Colorado

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 14, 2011

    In recent months, the federal Justice Department has engaged in concerted efforts to crack down on the proliferation of medical cannabis related activities in states that allow for its therapeutic use under state law, including California, Montana, and Washington.

    Now, according to a CBS News report, the next state on the federal government’s ‘hit list’ is Colorado — arguably the state with the most comprehensive and stringent statewide regulations governing medical cannabis activities. These regulations explicitly license state-authorized cannabis dispensaries, of which there are now some 700 operating statewide.

    Nonetheless, the imprimatur of the state apparently carries little if any weight with the Obama administration at this time — despite promises (reiterated before Congress just last week by US Attorney General Eric Holder) that such prosecutions are “not a (federal) priority” and that the Justice Department only intends to target those entities who “use marijuana in a way that’s not consistent with the state statute.”

    Predictably, today’s CBS special report tells a different story.

    Crackdown On Colorado’s Medical Pot Business On The Horizon
    via CBS News Denver

    Federal authorities are planning to crack down on the medical marijuana business in Colorado on a large scale for the first time.

    Warning letters will be going out to dispensaries and grow facilities near schools, CBS4 investigator Rick Sallinger has learned. So far it’s not clear how soon that will happen.

    Dispensaries that receive the letters will be given 45 days to shut down or move operations. If they don’t comply, they will be shut down by the U.S. attorney in Colorado.

    The dispensaries who are set to be targeted are the ones that are located within 1,000 feet of schools. That measurement is being used because that distance already appears in federal law as a factor in drug crime sentencing.

    The move comes after the Justice Department sent out a memo clarifying that marijuana has been and remains illegal under federal law despite what has taken place with state regulations. Colorado is one of 16 states where medical marijuana laws have been approved.

    Many of the state’s dispensaries that are closer than 1,000 feet to a school have already been approved to be there under local laws. They usually have been grandfathered in.

    … Robert Corry, an attorney who represents dispensaries, said medical marijuana operations are now strictly regulated under Colorado state laws.

    “The federal apparatus here has better things to do,” said Corry. “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 recently announced in a separate medical marijuana crackdown that they would be targeting landlords who rent retail space to dispensaries, as well as dispensary owners themselves.

    Does anyone really believe that this is an appropriate use of scarce federal resources? Or that these actions are in any way consistent with Obama’s public pledge to cease utilizing “Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws on this issue?” I didn’t think so.

    If the federal government is truly concerned about the diversion of
    medical marijuana or its potential abuse in states that have authorized it then it would be better served to encourage — rather than to discourage — statewide and local efforts to regulate these actions accordingly. The Obama administration’s enforcement actions in California, Colorado, and elsewhere will only result in limiting adults’ regulated, safe access to cannabis therapy. It will also cost local jobs and needed tax revenue, and likely result in hundreds — if not thousands — of unnecessary criminal prosecutions.

    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.

    125 responses to “The Next State In The Federal Government’s Crosshairs Is Colorado”

    1. Robert A. Daniel says:

      How about a petition so we can voice our objections to the Justice Dept. position?

      [Paul Armentano responds: NORML has previously set up an action alert on this issue here: http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/alert/?alertid=54512501.%5D

    2. Don says:

      I have to wonder if the Feds can offer up any proof that the way Colorado is currently handling their marijuana laws has caused any problems that we should all be concerned about. If not, then they should leave them alone!

      Obama said it’s time for a discussion about the war on drugs. So when is that going to happen? The American people, according to all the latest polls, are really disgusted with our Govt: Dems and Reps!

      I really really wish Ron Paul would have ran as an independent… Still, given the chance, he will get my vote. God Forbid that Newt Gingrich becomes our next president!

    3. Carl Olsen says:

      I don’t get it. That memo from the U.S. Department of Justice in October of 2009 (commonly referred to as the “Ogden Memo”) said the feds could go after anyone in compliance with state law any time they wanted to. What promise did they break? I don’t think distortion of the truth is going to get us anywhere and it certainly diverts attention from where it ought to be on states demanding their right to have marijuana removed from its current federal classification as having no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States. In the last big U.S. Supreme Court decision, the U.S. Supreme Court even said it was likely that marijuana is misclassified under federal law.

    4. JJ says:

      Someone needs to tell Obama and Holder and al of Obama’s appointed leaders of FBI and DEA that if they dont stop, Obama will NOT be re-elected. It would be the only way if the Rebuplicans have any say. Hell, most Dems aren’t voting for Obama…..OR tell Obama that if he doesnt legalize medical or decrim, then he does NOT need to run for re-election and to step out of the race.

    5. Alonzo Hope says:

      The marijuana prohibition of the US represents of of the greatest crimes against humanity in history.
      Any politician that supports prohibition of marijuana and the draconian laws that it uses to kill and imprison people should be brought up on Crimes Against Humanity charges by Mexico, Columbia, the US, and any other country whose citizens are killed, imprisoned and otherwise terrorized by these outdated and barbaric laws that continue to defy the will of the people.

    6. bhonze says:

      All the feds are doing is continuing too support drug cartels and terrorism. They will only drive prices up and send good citizens back in the shadows. They are trying to weaken the Legalization movement, but it won’t work they will not stop US! I can’t wait until 2012 election when one or more states LEGALIZE IT! What will the feds do then? There will be sooo many pot smoking tourist the’ll be no way to stop it.

    7. freeit says:


    8. Brian says:

      I fucking hate this country. Land of the free my fucking ass

    9. mountainhigh50 says:

      Its time for “We the People” to put our collective feet down and demand term limits for all federal offices. Our founding fathers did not envision professional politicians who enrich themselves and further their own agendas. Professional paid lobbyists need to be banned also.