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. joe says:

      John Walsh, just another fool.

    2. Ryan Freeman says:

      Colorado’s sheriffs should exercise their tenth amendment right to arrest any federal agents who attempt to enforce this. Please call your local sheriff and inform them of their rights and ask them to resist this unlawful federal intrusion.

    3. W.D.W.junior says:

      As President Ron Paul will make text books made from HEMP.
      Dearest Dr.Ron Paul,May God bless you richly in this life.Please consider your son as Vice

    4. Denver WMD says:

      Are they closing the pharmacy shops that have been god – fathered- in? By law shouldn’t this letters be given to local state sheriffs in area also? These businesses have proper state licensing and pay taxes right? We the people voted for this right? So where is our state law enforcement with our Colorado governor? Saying No! We respect the Rights of our people and the Constitution? Right? Where are the Marijuana Activists, Normal, Lawyers, We wanna know?

      [Paul Armentano responds: NORML filed suit against the Justice Department in November over this behavior. See: http://norml.org/legal/constitutional-challenges.%5D

    5. BudTenderDan says:

      Do they have a copy of The U.S. Constitution in D.C.?

      [Paul Armentano responds: For the record, the federal statute that the US Attorney cites in these letters encompasses far more than just ‘schools’, even though that is how this story is being reported. 21 USC Sec. 860 states “the real property comprising a public or private elementary, vocational, or secondary school or a public or private college, junior college, or university, or a playground, or housing facility owned by a public housing authority, or within 100 feet of a public or private youth center, public swimming pool, or video arcade facility.”]

    6. The Oracle says:

      The easiest solution is in the same legislation to remove cannabis from the schedule system altogether such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco are excluded and simultaneously exempt states with their own laws regarding regulation. That would leave the non-MMJ states still subject to federal crackdowns.

      That would allow some transition time for the Feds to reallocate mission focus to keep their employment somehow.

      Barring that, my recommendation is to keep running the economy into the ground. I guess that has to mean that Obama gets re-elected so that the purse strings of the wealthy keep the money from flowing into the economy. If Obama doesn’t get re-elected and the wealthy want to open up the valve to get the cash flowing to rev up the economy again, or no matter who is running the federal government and the rich want to rev up the economy, then the euro needs to plummet to keep the U.S. economy in the tank.

      Hell, why wait?! Just tank the euro already. They’ll want the U.S. to pump cash into the International Monetary Fund to prop up the euro. The Germans and their Big Pharma will have to agree to the legalization of cannabis as a condition. It’s a nice peace dividend on the savings and peacemaker and job maker in the Islamic part of the world. It’s a reason for NGOs and covert operations to establish intelligence operations and support the improvement of the human condition of everyday people there and around the world. Mexico, too.

    7. Somedood says:

      Nazi America.

    8. The Oracle says:

      This is just sad on the part of the Feds, that they keep wasting money on this kind of shit.

      Unfortunately, the only way the Feds will legalize cannabis is if they have no choice.

      If the economy keeps getting worse and becomes even more of a shambles, the need for the cash from cannabis will override the specious arguments of the prohibitionists.

      Keep running the economy into the ground until cannabis is legalized.

    9. Denver WMD says:

      Error not found? Will try later TY so how do I get in the circle of trust ?




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