Medical Marijuana Raids in Colorado Raise Questions About Federal Forbearance

VIP CannabisVIP CannabisToday federal agents, assisted by local police, staged the biggest crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in Colorado since the state legalized cannabis for medical use in 2000. The Denver Post reports that the raids hit more than a dozen dispensaries in the Denver area, plus businesses in Boulder and elsewhere.

Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, said the operation "comports with the Department's recent guidance regarding marijuana enforcement matters." The August 29 memo to which Dorschner refers indicated that the feds would not interfere with marijuana businesses that comply with state law unless their activities implicated one or more of these eight "enforcement priorities": 1) "preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors," 2) "preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states," 3) "preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use," 4) "preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands," 5) "preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property," 6) "preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises," 7) "preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana," and 8) "preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs."

Which of those concerns triggered today's raids? Walsh's office won't say, at least not yet. "Although we cannot at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation," Dorschner said in a written statement, "there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice's August guidance memo are potentially implicated."

The raids come just six weeks before Colorado's state-licensed pot shops are scheduled to start selling marijuana for recreational use. But industry leaders seem to be viewing their competitors' legal troubles with equanimity. "Really, I see enforcement actions happening as a sign our industry is maturing and this program is working," Mike Elliott, president of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG), told the Post, although he did add that "it's important to remember people are innocent until proven guilty." MMIG board member Andy Williams, who runs Denver's Medicine Man dispensary, appeared pleased as well. "I want the bad actors gone, quite honestly," he said. 

Mason Tvert, who co-managed Colorado's legalization campaign and now works for the Marijuana Policy Project, was a bit more wary. "The Justice Department said it would respect states' rights to regulate marijuana, and that it would not go after businesses as long as they are complying with state laws," he said. "We hope they are sticking to their word and not interfering with any state-regulated, law-abiding businesses." Rob Corry, a Denver attorney and marijuana activist, told the Post: "The DOJ needs to explain in a logical fashion why they are picking and choosing, going after only some of these entities when every one of them selling marijuana is running afoul of the federal law."

These raids are an unusually aggressive move by Walsh, who until now had mostly contented himself with shutting down dispensaries he deemed too close to schools by sending them threatening letters. But the Justice Department's new policy regarding state-legal marijuana businesses leaves a lot of leeway for prosecutorial discretion. If I were a dispensary owner planning to get into the newly legal recreational market, I would pay careful attention to Walsh's explanation, assuming he ever offers one, of exactly how businesses such as VIP Cannabis crossed the Justice Department's faintly marked red lines.

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  • mr simple||

    These people are despicable. I hope their kids detest them.

    If I were governor or mayor of a state or city, respectively, I would not allow my police to participate in any such raids and arrest any federal agents who do on every charge I could come up with, and there are plenty. I would love to see a standoff like this. This is clearly out of the fedgovs jurisdiction and we need states to stand up to them.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Yeah but if they try that then the federal teat dries up and they're run out of office on a rail.

    The feds control the country as much with the carrot as they do with the stick.

  • mr simple||

    Possibly, depending on the legislature's leaning at the time. Though for me to be elected to public office would require a fairly libertarian electorate who wouldn't be as worried about such things.

  • mr simple||

    IOW, I'm talking fantasy here, not reality.

  • Libertymike||

    The reality is that the USA, like any other government, in the words of BUtler Shaffer, "is founded upon the collectivist premise that lives and other property interests of individuals are subject to the principle of eminent domain, i.e., that the state has a rightful dominion over EVERYTHING within its boundaries of coercive power."

    The fantasy is thinking that the state is necessary and it is insanity to think that, somehow, America is the exception, what RONALD RAYGUN referred to as the "shining city on the hill".

    No, the cops and soldier boys will not disobey orders. They are cowards and pussies, by and large. They will kill you when they come for your guns.

  • pronomian||

    Tax it sensibly and they may not need as much, if any, fed money. I think that is a fear for the federal politburo, the states not needing taxpayer money taken by the feds to control them.

  • pronomian||

    I would go a step further, call out the national guard to protect my citizens. The feds would freak if their people were confronted that way.

  • Jquip||

    "That's a nice shop you have there. Be a shame if anything were to happen to it."

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Today federal agents, assisted by local police, staged the biggest crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in Colorado since the state legalized cannabis for medical use in 2000."

    Barack Obama is an asshole.

  • Libertymike||

    That he has sought refuge in race makes him even more of an asshole.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't know anything about that. Couldn't care less about his race.

    Colorado legalizes recreational marijuana so Obama sends his muscle in to make sure anybody that starts selling--in compliance with the law--is sufficiently frightened ahead of time...

    That makes Barack Obama an asshole.

    You want to talk about Obama's race, go start your own little freaky subthread, and leave me out of it.

  • Libertymike||

    Why the hostility?

    My point is that one who routinely, if not obsessively, makes race a central part of one's life is, by definition, more of an asshole.

    He makes his blackness an issue and he has constantly done so. He insists upon making blackness a perpetual premise upon which to coerce perpetual confiscations of wealth.

    He has repeatedly stoked the fires of racism. To wit, his remarks about his grandmother, Prof. Gates, Trayvon Martin, etc.

    The guy is a walking billboard for the truth that affirmative action beneficiaries are the quintessence of mediocrity and moral abomination.

    People like Obama need to be constantly condemned and held in contempt for their racialism. Group think is horrible and any friend of liberty should not be afraid to call a spade a spade.

    But, perhaps you are a closet donor to the SPLC.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't give a crap about anything you're talking about, and I don't understand what it has anything to do with anything I wrote.

    And I don't want to understand.

  • Libertymike||

    You wrote that he is an asshole.

    I merely added that his race baiting, race hustling and his racialist view of life, make him more of an asshole.

    Please, are you telling me that you do not understand what I posted? Group think is to be condemned, however it manifests itself.

    Obama seeks refuge in his race. That is a horrible attribute.

    Again, are you beholden to Morris Dees?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Let me see if I can spell this out for you in a way you'll understand: I don't give a crap about Barack Obama's race.

    I don't care what you think of the SPLC, either. I don't know who Morris Dees is, and I don't give a crap who he is--much less what you think about him.

    I don't care what you think about Barack Obama's race, and the more you write, the less I care about anything else you think, either.

    There isn't anything about me thinking Obama is an asshole that means I gotta care about who Morris Dees is, or what you think of him, me, the SPLC, or anything else.

    No, really.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I know who Morris Day is!

    Is that who you were talkin' about?

    http://www.dailymotion.com/vid.....love_music

    I do care what Morris Day thinks! We have a similar outlook--and just like with Morris Day, women find me irresistible. But I don't see what he has to do with the SPLC.

  • Libertymike||

    Do you think that Morris Day cares about what Morris Dees thinks?

    Sometimes, you are obtuse. Its as if you forget that you aggressed here.

    I'll give you some props though for trying to inject some humor.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Seriously, Women do find me irresistible. Ask any one that's met me.

    The only ones that are mad at me are only mad because I don't call them anymore.

  • michael.bruce87@gmail.com||

    "I don't give a crap about Barack Obama's race."

    Mike wasn't making a comment about Obama's race. He was pointing out that Obama has repeatedly misused racial rhetoric to try to browbeat others. Much the same way you're trying to switch the subject on Mike in an effort to make him look like he cares about people's race.

  • Randian filtered me, I WIN!||

    you know, if you're going to log in and defned yourself from an alt account, you should avoid making it so bovious that it's your alt Mike.

  • SweatingGin||

    Asshole doesn't come close to covering it. Hopefully the jury (and hopefully it goes to trial) will say, "fuck, we said it should be legal"

    Not likely I guess.

    Would be nice to see the governor and legislature stand up for their state. Don't really expect it.

  • Ken Shultz||

    "Hopefully the jury (and hopefully it goes to trial) will say, "fuck, we said it should be legal"

    Juries are like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're gonna...

    I'm hoping Obama loses big for this in the court of public opinion.

    If it doesn't piss the voters of Colorado off that the President is completely disregarding--and disrespecting--what they want and what they voted for, then it should.

    I just looked it up, and Mark Udall is the incumbent Democrat from Colorado running for reelection to the U.S. Senate in 2014. If I'm the Republican candidate, I'm hitting him hard if he hasn't done anything at the national level to stand up for the voters of Colorado.

    You don't even have to be pro-marijuana legalization to stand up for the voters of Colorado against the president.

    If Udall isn't willing to stand up to Obama--even as Obama is completely ignoring Colorado's voters--then the voters in Colorado should probably try a Republican candidate.

    There's a Democrat governor in Colorado who is running for reelection in 2014, too. What is he doing to protect the voters of Colorado from Barack Obama's rampage? Anything? Anything--even if it's only symbolic?

  • SweatingGin||

    My thought on the jury was mostly that -- federal cases usually avoid any mention of state-legal medical MJ, threatening the defense with a mistrial and/or contempt charge if they mention it.

    In a case like this, it should be readily apparent and known to even the densest juror that it is legal.

    And then they're taking it to trial for "His sign was too big!"

  • Ken Shultz||

    I won't pretend I'm a lawyer, but if they charge these people in district court, they're going to have to prosecute them in Colorado's federal district, right?

    That would mean the jurors will be from Colorado, so, yeah, they're gonna have a hard time finding a Coloradan to sit on the jury who doesn't know that recreational marijuana is legal.

    And by the time this goes to trial, it may seem even more ridiculous to the jurors, too. By then, any one of the jurors may be able to buy it for recreational purposes--not too far from where they live. And it'll seem even more stupid to go after these people then.

    It'll be a bit like prosecuting a bootlegger after prohibition has been lifted.

  • sidcon||

    Evidently you haven't been paying too much attention to things.The federal government can do any damn thing they want to do.It all depends on what label they stick on these "criminals".A domestic terrorist can be held indefinitly and i will assume they can try him anywhere no?

  • JidaKida||

    Well we all know the Feds have nothing but spare time on their hands.

    www.Anon-It.tk

  • Mr Whipple||

    If you like your weed, you can keep it"

  • ||

    If I were a dispensary owner planning to get into the newly legal recreational market

    ...you should probably figure out really fast who needs to get greased, and grease them, so that they leave you alone.

    If they are only going after certain dispensaries, I would bet you a ton of money the ones that didn't get raided figured out how to pay off or be useful to somebody in charge. Selective enforcement is tailor-made for corruption.

  • sarcasmic||

    Selective enforcement is tailor-made for corruption.

    I remember my stepfather told me a story about driving through some town with his daughter following him, and he pays no attention to the speed limit. She had to ignore the signs to keep up. Well, some cop saw her and pulled her over. Her father seeing that she wasn't behind her anymore turned around and came up on the cop questioning her, and yelled "Hey! I didn't sell that car to your boss so you could pull my daughter over with it!"
    After a quick call to the boss they went on their way. It's nice to be the guy at the dealership with the contract with a few police departments.

  • sidcon||

    Cronyism is never nice.

  • Tman||

    Mike Williams and Andy Williams just want the guys who were too stupid to pay the "cop" tax bad actors gone Epi, why do you have to be see negative?

  • ||

    assisted by local police,

    What were the locals doing? It's legal as far as they should be concerned.

  • sarcasmic||

    "Your department relies on some federal grants, doesn't it? Sure would be a shame if something happened to them."

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Taxi cabs are not expensive enough, so they hired the taxis with shotgun holders and Christmas lights.

  • sarcasmic||

    Those eight priorities basically amount to proving your innocence.

    1) "preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors," 2) "preventing the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states," 3) "preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use," 4) "preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands," 5) "preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property," 6) "preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises," 7) "preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana," and 8) "preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs."

    Could they get away with requiring customers to sign a form that says they promise not to do any of those things with the products from that store?

    I remember in Colorado back in the 80s legally buying illegal fireworks at a fireworks store in like Denver or something. All you had to do was sign a form saying you purchased them for the purpose of shooting them off in a state where they are legal. Like Wyoming. Which makes no sense since they're cheaper in Wyoming. But it worked. And no one set them off in Wyoming.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    Good Lord! "Really, I see enforcement actions happening as a sign our industry is maturing and this program is working," Mike Elliott, president of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG),

    These people would argue that air should be illegal without a license. I would use water as an example, but they probably already license wells.

  • SQRLSY One||

    But Emperor Obama is all in favor of truth and freedom and democracy for all of them that thar ferriners, as far as I can tell about all the taxes I am paying for such things in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Somalia and Stanstanstanstanistan and so forth, right? So when can we expect him to bring some of the troops home to go and kill some DEA agents, so that we can have some freedom (and some real, tangible belief in the voters’ choices in Colorado and so forth)? Y’all expect it might happen tomorrow, maybe?

  • DEATFBIRSECIA||

    Obama really sees no limits on his power whatsoever. Modify settled healthcare legislation at his verbal say-so, ignore the will of the voters of any state, spy on and dossier everyone, use federal agencies as political weapons, and on and on.

    But of course this is the guy who signed the NDAA and has kill lists containing the names of American citizens. Squelching federalism is small peanuts for this power-tripping clown.

  • Homple||

    Did anyone here really think that the feds would surrender the power to harass and extort given to them by the drug laws? Thousands of government jobs and civilian adjuncts (e, g. drug labs) and billions of dollars depend on continuing MJ enforcement. Desire for this power and boodle won't go away because of some puny state initiatives.

  • hotsy totsy||

    From the comments at Westword's website:
    " You all should get the details before throwing a fit about this. REGULATION IS GOOD. If the places being raided weren't following the laws put in place then they deserve to be shit down.
    This is a MAINSTREAM industry now, we have to behave like one."

  • hotsy totsy||

    Same commentator:
    " Open your eyes people. This is a business industry now and they have to follow the rules. If they don't the authorities handle it.
    Marijuana is illegal federally and the FEDS will enforce the raids when businesses fail to follow their state laws.
    This is nothing new. It happened two years ago here in Colorado.
    The bad businesses will be shut down and the legitimate ones will continue to thrive."

  • Herb||

    You guys are missing the point. There are over 400 dispensaries in Denver alone. While a dozen of them were raided, that means that (at least) 388 of them were allowed to continue selling legal weed to their customers all day, even with the DEA, the IRS, and the Denver PD running around town, breaking windows and trashing plants.

    In other words, the vast majority of medical marijuana dispensaries went unmolested yesterday. As long as they follow the guidelines, there is no reason to think they too will be raided.

    And VIP Cannabis? If you've ever smoked their product without going through the trouble of getting a red card, it's not surprising they were raided.

    That's why I am not surprised they were raided.

  • ||

    Oh, so they only brought a little pain then? Well never mind.

  • Randian filtered me, I WIN!||

    "You guys are missing the point. "

    Not at all, you're just not bright enough to understand that your "point" isn't a point at all.

    "As long as they follow the guidelines, there is no reason to think they too will be raided."

    Which ones? Oh right, they were following the guidelines, so this "point" is a total failure.

  • Herb||

    I'm not bright enough? The DEA didn't come knocking on MY door.

    My point is this: Colorado didn't repeal all laws relating to marijuana. To the contrary, we set-up a regulated way to legally sell it.

    This selective targeting of a few bad actors is how "drug enforcement" SHOULD be done. I see no reason why legitimate pot enterprises need to compete with ones doing something illegal on the side, do you?

    Would that stand in any other regulated industry? No.

  • Chmee||

    Maybe there were good reasons to raid these establishments. However, I have a problem with 3 of the 8 reasons, #s 3, 5 and 7. For #3 and #5, I can't see how a dispensary can be responsible for an individuals use and subsequent operation of a motor vehicle or for someone having possession on Federal property. This seems too overly broad and opens the door to ALL of them being subject to raids. It's going to happen, and probably already does. They have no control over this at all.

    As to #7, if I were running a dispensary (or was a grower) I wouldn't feel comfortable NOT having a firearm on hand. I mean seriously, do they want would be thieves and real drug traffikers from gaining access to and stealing product or not?

  • silverfang789||

    The drug warriors just want an excuse to arrest people.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Obama sucks my willie, it is a Known Fact...

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