Justice Department Formally Threatens State-Licensed Colorado Cannabis Providers

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 thoughts

  1. Are they doing this because they don’t spend enough taxpayer money on unnecessary things? They need to get their priorities straight and make the streets safe from murderers, rapist, muggers violent gangs and corrupt government officials.

  2. This is flat earth if u are not reg to vote than u believe in flat earth. I know a lot of pot head. The d.e.a know u are to stupid to go reg and vote so they know it will never be allow

  3. @Joel: the other Joel
    What does Holder wimping out to nine former drug czars have to do with states suing him for failure to recognize accepted medical use of marijuana in the United States? If someone isn’t doing their job in that office, you have to sue them, not cry in your soup about it.

  4. Many of our people can’t register to vote because they have a felony on their record I know a lot of people like that. Pretty soon there will be more people that can’t vote than can and then it will only be the super straight sheep voting just what our government wants they will be able to elect whoever they want by using religious affiliation and news which they already do.

  5. @Carl Olsen
    I’m referring to this on your second reply to this topic:
    [“I’m not sure Michele will be gone by Easter, but she works for Holder and he could tell her that states have the right to determine what is accepted for medical use in that state and to remove marijuana from the current federal classification that says it has no accepted medical use in the United States.”]
    The big question:
    What changed Attorney General Eric Holder’s mind?
    I don’t think Eric Holder has any control over the DEA or doesn’t want to cause any trouble with them.

  6. But don’t you know, if it wasn’t for marijuana, there wouldn’t be any crimes. No one would steal or rape or abuse their power if weren’t for the kids smoking pot out back.

    Maybe we ought start killing black cat again, its just about as effective at “crime prevention” as marijuana prohibition. It’s really is time to face this scourge threatening our nation and kill off the black cats once and for all! If it wasn’t for those dang cats, no one would worship satan and become a criminal.

  7. time for full out legalization, I use to be in favor for just medical use. But if this is how they are going to treat us, I want a constitutional amendment protecting me, if government is going to bigots. Apparently, they all want us growing in our houses, but they want to know who they are. They are not going to stop anything by disrupting collective operations, it only bolsters the illegal activity, because guess what they demand is not going to go down. I don’t understand, I find the situation now to be a more public health issue, its just really sad when I have to buy medicine from street again.

  8. The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) told ProCon.org in a Jan. 2, 2002 email:
    “Among marijuana’s most harmful consequences is its potential role in leading to the use of other illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin. Long-term studies of high school students and their patterns of drug use show that very few young people use other illegal drugs without first trying marijuana.
    “”””””””””While not all people who use marijuana go on to use other drugs, using marijuana puts children and teens in contact with people who are users and sellers of other drugs, so there is more of a risk that a marijuana user will be exposed to and urged to try more dangerous drugs.”””””””””
    A recent study by Columbia University’s Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse found a pronounced difference in future drug use between kids who used marijuana and those who did not. It revealed that teens who smoke marijuana are 85 times more likely to use cocaine than those who do not. This means the odds of using other drugs increases with the increased frequency of marijuana smoking.”

    The super quotes explain it all. Then why don’t they regulate it. I need to leave before I get really upset

  9. @Joel: the other Joel
    Nothing changed Holder’s mind. He never had any intention of telling the DEA to remove marijuana from schedule I. Do you have any evidence saying otherwise? And, yes, of course he’s not going to cause trouble with DEA. If the states don’t sue Holder, nothing will happen. I had to sue the Iowa Board of Pharmacy before they made a unanimous ruling that marijuana should be removed from schedule I in Iowa. They will not do it voluntarily. After I sued them and won, they paid for 4 public hearings and six months of taking evidence out of their own operating budget. You won’t find any government servant willing to do that without a court order. That is what is missing here. The states are not suing Holder. That needs to be done right now. Don’t wait another day. And, if you live in one of those states that accepts medical marijuana you should be suing that state for failure to sue Holder. Your state will not do this voluntarily. I’m in the Iowa Supreme Court right now. Olsen v. State, No. 11-1744.

  10. Oathbreakers and death dealers cloaked in a veil of lies. The Federal government is so sinister and evil the devil has made an altar and an idol and worships them for doing his deeds.

  11. The ignorance of the Federal Government is a horrible joke and makes me embarrassed to be an American.

    The Federal Government really is looking for ways to blow our money to no mans land!! Ugh it is frustrating.

    There are young adults with no money to buy food or the education they need but we can spend $50,000 on a raid that will result in compromising a nickel bag!

    This is disgusting. Ask the women who got raped for the first time last night by a pimp that could have been taken off the streets days/weeks/months/years ago and stopped in his treads.

    Let that girl be the federal governments wife. Raped and emotionally torn apart. Oooh wait I forgot the Federal Government refers to this as “Collateral Damage”

    Piece of “S” states of hypocracy!

  12. I saw 90% of Americans disapprove of what Congress does, and yet they continue to only do what the 10% want. How absolutely embarrassing as an American.

  13. Prohibition is a public health threat. The more people who get that, the faster it will change. The data has been available for decades, but each year we’re discovering more ways it helps the body. We have documentation of its efficacy on some types of cancer and certain strains are magnificent on Alzheimer’s Disease. These are our two biggest public health threats. To the extent that we get the word out, people who fill out ballots will shift their thoughts on it, and eventually, their votes. It’s challenging because people have been so effectively brain washed, but it is not impossible. The tide is beginning to shift. Remember, this war started centuries ago. The twentieth-century rendition is just a new chapter out of the Burning Times.

  14. All they need to do to stop this is for the governors of those states is to order the arrests of the federal agents carrying out the raids . The federal governments only recourse would be to invade a sovereign state with US troops which is unconstitutional . That would end this stupid war on Americans who do drugs .

  15. Maybe this is just the catalyst we need to take this country back again. The federal “government” if you even want to call it that, is the biggest purveyor of lawlessness on the planet. They continue to meddle not only in the affairs of other countries around the world, but in the internal affairs of the individual states as well, in total violation of the 9th and 10th Amendments of the Constitution. Of course, they’ve gotta protect their buddies in the Mexican drug cartels, can’t have competition, you know. They have become largely illegitimate, they are not even a government, but a group of Nazi-like thugs. The purpose of government is to protect the natural rights of the people, which have already been defined by the Almighty Himself, not to grant rights or define them to whatever suits their agenda at any given moment. God put plants on this earth for man to use freely, nobody can claim property rights to something that is natural, except for the ones they choose to grow in their own garden with their own labor. To try and outlaw a plant is an insult to Go Himself. The government is not God, and sooner or later they’ll have to learn that the hard way when we the people have had enough of their garbage and decide to teach them a lesson.If we have to use the 2nd Amendment to do it, then so be it. Woe unto those who side with evildoers!

  16. As an American living here all my life this makes me really sad and angry. My government is betraying my people, our people cold blooded. It makes me sick, and it seems the only thing that makes more American wake up is more crisis. The ignorance is on a national scale.. this war is hurting us, causing gangs to fight in the streets. It must end soon. There are some countries where it’s literally a war, and if you are caught with illegal drugs they will line you up and shoot you. This is not right. America must set the example now, not encourage war.

  17. Has anyone entertained the thought that the federal government has a monetary investment in cannabis prohibition? Either that or as a measure of thought control. Both revolve around power and this it what it seems the fed’s actions are for — the retention of some sort of power. This is directly analogous to Britain’s efforts to retain power over the colonies. It comes in waves.

    “They first rejected the authority of the Parliament of Great Britain to govern them from overseas without representation, and then expelled all royal officials. By 1774, each colony had established a Provincial Congress, or an equivalent governmental institution, to govern itself, but still within the empire. The British responded by sending combat troops to re-impose direct rule. Through representatives sent in 1775 to the Second Continental Congress, the states joined together at first to defend their respective self-governance and manage the armed conflict against the British known as the American Revolutionary War (1775–83, also American War of Independence). Ultimately, the states collectively determined that the British monarchy, by acts of tyranny, could no longer legitimately claim their allegiance. They then severed ties with the British Empire in July 1776, when the Congress issued the United States Declaration of Independence, rejecting the monarchy on behalf of the new sovereign nation separate and external to the British Empire. The war ended with effective American victory in October 1781, followed by formal British abandonment of any claims to the United States with the Treaty of Paris in 1783.”

  18. Threats and susequent actions on dispensaries by the Federal Government are useless and a colossal waste of tax dollars. Weed consumption for whatever reason, health or otherwise, is not going away now or ever. These kinds of actions by the Feds only increase the resolve by those of us who actually have common sense.

  19. This plant could cure and help us so much!We need to use are brains jobs,MED-help! Last but not least we can pay this money we owe!Biggest cash crop in U.S? Sometimes I just figure if u and I see it they have too?Hope we are not just (DOOMED)Obama YOU SAID CHANGE!I AGREED GAVE YOU THE CHANCE! Please be a man of your word!

  20. Here in washington we had raids about 2 months ago. There are shops all around seattle and tacoma.

    I can not say that more people are or are not using pot, but the sky is not falling.

    Every neighbor of a pot store I have seen or read in newspaper articles says they are or were good neighbors.

    So I say to you gov’t, the public is on our side.

    So I say to you Mr. Pres. in a land of 5% of the world population and 25% of the world inmates. Are we truly the land of the free.

    In the late 90’s we voted here in seattle to noit build sports stadiums with public monies. Our gov. still paid for them and Seahawks and mariners suck!

    We voted for medical marijuana and our local gov. is still trying to figure this out 14 years later. Those that voted for their own right to use and procure canabis legally… well they are probably dead.

    So Obama where is the CHANGE? The only change I got was from the actual bills I had earned.

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