Medical Marijuana Crackdown: 25 Colo. Dispensaries Receive Letters From Feds Saying Move Or Shut Down

On Friday, the U.S. Attorney's office issued letters to the owners of 25 medical marijuana dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of a school notifying them they have 45 days to close, move their business or face criminal charges, The Denver Post reports.

The pot shops are located in various cities across the state, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.

This is the second round of letters sent out to dispensaries near schools. Letters were sent out to 23 other medical marijuana businesses in Colorado in mid-January in what was the most aggressive law-enforcement action against the medical marijuana industry that the federal government has pursued in the state.

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.

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, sent a strongly worded letter to Walsh, pushing back against the January 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. LEAP has not yet issued a statement about this latest round of letters.

The continued medical marijuana crackdown in Colorado does seem oddly timed. It arrives just months after the state's Department of Revenue seeking reclassification of marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug as to allow doctors to prescribe it as medical treatment.

There's also the December 2011 poll released by Public Policy Polling showing that a large group of Coloradans believe that marijuana should not just be legal medically, but fully legalized. From the Public Policy report:

Coloradans are even more strongly in favor of legalizing marijuana, and they overwhelmingly believe it at least should be available for medical purposes. 49% think marijuana use should generally be legal, and 40% illegal. But explicitly for medical use, that rises to a 68-25 spread. Just five years ago, a referendum to legalize simple possession by people over 21 failed by 20 points. On the medical question, Democratic support rises from 64% for general use to 78%; Republicans rise from 30% to 50%, and independents from 54% to 75%.

While the feds crackdown on medical marijuana shops, the Campaign To Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a collective of marijuana activist groups and individuals including SAFER, Sensible Colorado, NORML and others, succeeded in getting a recreational use legalization initiative on the ballot for November 2012. Known as Amendment 64, the marijuana prohibition ending measure recently received a majority of support by Denver Republicans with fifty-six percent of the delegates at the Denver County Republican Assembly voting to support the legislation.

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