Medical Marijuana: U.S. Attorney John Walsh Says No Colorado Pot Shop Safe From Federal Crackdown
On Friday, John Walsh, the U.S. Attorney in Colorado, said that there is no "safe harbor" for any medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, according to The Associated Press.
The statement was made in a letter to Denver attorney Rob Corry who represents medical marijuana dispensaries and who was trying to pin down how far the federal crackdown of Colorado pot shops could go, CBS4 reports. After a series of letters between Corry and Walsh and after the crackdown that forced the shut down of 22 medical marijuana businesses last week, Corry concluded that as long as the medical marijuana business were not within 1000 feet of schools they would be safe from federal prosecution.
However, Walsh said that is definitely not the case saying to Corry that advising clients that there is a safe harbor at all is "incorrect and untruthful, and would mislead them, factually and legally." Walsh also said in the latest letter that it is at his discression to take enforcement action against any and all medical marijuana dispensaries, according to 7News.
Corry, in response to Walsh's statement, told 7News, "That's an awesome amount of power that the law does not intend to hand to a single federal prosecutor."
Westword has collected all the letters between Corry and Walsh, click here to read them.
In mid-January, letters were sent out to 23 medical marijuana businesses in Colorado within 1000 feet of schools ordering them to shut down or move in what is the most aggressive law-enforcement action against the medical marijuana industry that the federal government has pursued in the state. 22 of the 23 targeted business shut down with one allowed to stay open after it pointed out that the nearby school was not in use, The Denver Post reported.
The reasoning behind the 1,000 foot boundary stems from federal law which uses that measurement as a factor in drug crime sentencing. There are many dispensaries in Colorado that are within 1,000 feet of schools, according to High Times, because they were approved by local laws to do so. However, the federal law trumps the state law.
Attorney Rob Corry is not alone is fighting this federal crackdown of medical marijuana in Colorado. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who used to enforce drug law and are now trying to end the war on drugs, have sent a strongly worded letter to Walsh, pushing back against the crackdown:
Dear U.S. Attorney John Walsh:
As fellow law-enforcement colleagues vitally interested in the health and well-being of children, we must respectfully register our fundamental objection to your recent issuance of 23 letters threatening state-legal Colorado Medical Marijuana Centers and their landlords with civil, criminal and forfeiture sanctions. That you would justify this action on the basis of the locations in question being too close to schools for your liking (compliance with state and local law notwithstanding) is ironic and highlights the failure of the very federal marijuana prohibition policy that underlies the threats in your letter, as we'll explain.
Certainly, you must be aware that the voters of Colorado and the Colorado legislature – like the voters and lawmakers of 16 other states – have made it abundantly clear that marijuana is medicine for many people and for many ailments, and that its use and provision to patients should be allowed under the law.
Almost two years ago, in a bipartisan fashion, the Colorado Senate and House of Representatives enacted a strict dual licensing system for Medical Marijuana Centers that requires a license by the local and state government. All the businesses you have targeted are operating with approval from their local governments and the state of Colorado.
Read the letter in its entirety here.
The battle for marijuana use in Colorado is likely to only get more complicated in 2012. Colorado voters will decide this November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use for adults in the state.