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Feds order some Colo. medical pot businesses to close in the
Marijuana News & Discussion forums; ]quote] Feds order some Colo. medical pot businesses to close
Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/fed-...#ixzz1jKMdwWHP
Federal officials began a California-style crackdown on ...
Feds order some Colo. medical pot businesses to close
]quote]Feds order some Colo. medical pot businesses to close
Read more: http://www.gazette.com/articles/fed-...#ixzz1jKMdwWHP
Federal officials began a California-style crackdown on Colorado medical marijuana businesses Thursday, targeting those located near schools in a move that could affect nearly a dozen Colorado Springs businesses.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh said 23 dispensaries across Colorado that are within 1,000 feet of schools have until Feb. 27 to shut down or face federal penalties, which can include asset seizure or forfeiture of property. The warning letters, dated Thursday, were sent to dispensary owners and their landlords.
Walsh said prosecutors expect to target more medical marijuana businesses near schools.
The orders set up a possible showdown with businesses that worked closely with state lawmakers to develop regulations they hoped would prevent such action.
“Colorado’s the last place they should probably be trying to do that considering the evolution we’ve made in just a very short period of time to create an industry that’s fully transparent and regulated,” said Mark Slaugh, membership director of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council.
The action came as drug incidents jumped 44 percent over the last four years at kindergarten through 12th-grade schools across the state — a rise that several health and school officials attribute to marijuana use.
Walsh pointed to the increase in student drug use in announcing the action.
“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 said.
Colorado Springs a likely target
Walsh’s office declined to release a list of targeted businesses.
Most of the 56 businesses within 1,000 feet of a school are in Denver and Colorado Springs, where zoning codes are more lax than the state regulations, according to an analysis by the Denver-based I-News Network.
Seven medical marijuana centers in Colorado Springs are within a 1,000-foot radius of schools.
Two of those centers also house infused product manufacturers — businesses that mix marijuana with foods — in the same building.
Two other medical marijuana centers are within 1,100 feet of schools, the network found.
Terry Orness, who owns SSI Care Centers with his son, said he didn’t receive a letter Thursday despite being located 600 feet from Pikes Peak Prep, a charter school on Costilla Street just east of downtown.
“We’re going to sit back and see what happens,” Orness said. “We obviously are not going to jump off a bridge because somebody’s sending us a letter.”
Rob Corry, a Denver lawyer who represents dispensaries and was a member of a task force that wrote Colorado’s regulations, said some of his clients received letters. He said he advised them to fight the threats, which he called a “massive bluff.”
“He’s (Walsh) declaring war on state lawmakers who set up a highly regulated medical marijuana industry,” Corry said. “There’s an entire state bureaucracy devoted to this, not to mention thousands of jobs and countless sick people.”
The move follows similar action by four U.S. attorneys California that caused some dispensaries to close. It was unclear what actions were taken by authorities against those that didn’t close or move.
Unlike California, Washington and Montana, where federal officials have cracked down on businesses sanctioned by the state, Colorado’s industry is heavily state-regulated.
State regulations prohibit medical marijuana businesses within 1,000 feet of schools but grandfathered in businesses in existence before regulations were passed in 2010.
The regulations also allowed cities to set their own limits. The Colorado Springs City Council lowered the boundary to 400 feet from kindergarten through 12th-grade schools, although the Planning Commission asked for a 1,000-foot boundary. The Planning Commission also recommended that the definition of schools include preschools, colleges and universities.
The U.S. Attorney’s orders pertain to colleges and universities, but not preschools.
Colorado Springs attorney Clifton Black said he’s long advised his clients — the owners of 40 medical marijuana businesses — to adhere to the 1,000-foot rule because federal law entails enhanced penalties within that boundary.
“I think the question is how far are the feds going to keep going,” Black said.
Colorado’s medical marijuana industry boomed after a September 2009 memo by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that said federal prosecutors should not focus investigative resources on patients and caregivers complying with state laws. But Ogden’s replacement, James Cole, in June took a tougher stance and said state medical marijuana laws do not provide immunity from federal prosecution.
He said commercial enterprises that sell or profit from marijuana sales should be a priority. He reinforced that cancer patients and caregivers shouldn’t be targeted.
Colorado has more than 600 retail shops, 900 grow sites and 230 infused product manufacturers operating under state law, according to the state revenue department.
Ballot measures are pending to make marijuana legal for recreational use. State officials also have asked the federal government to recognize the herb as medicine.
As the industry blossomed, drug-related incidents jumped 44-percent at K-12 schools across the state over the last four years, according to an investigation by Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network.
The figures from the Colorado Department of Education don’t specify the drugs involved, but several school and health officials interviewed across Colorado attributed the increase to marijuana use.
“It is medical marijuana that their friends or friends’ parents got,” said Judy Mueller with YouthZone, a Glenwood Springs non-profit that works to keep young offenders out of juvenile court. “They’re telling us it’s easy to get. They’re getting it from an adult’s stash.”
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First they came for California, but you were silent because you did not live there
Then they came for Colorado, ...