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Break off a nug of some cannabis news.
Back in October the California medical marijuana industry was issued a stern warning by the 4 U.S. attorneys in the state. Landlords were threatened with property seizures and long prison sentences for harboring those dealing with federally controlled substances, regardless of the city or state laws and ordinances that have protected medical marijuana for 16 years in California. The results have been cloudy at best, with clubs in many cities closing down rather than face federal opposition, and the public outrage high.
On Thursday, January 12, following a December filled with rumors that the federal crackdown would spread, Colorado’s U.S. attorney John Walsh sent out 23 letters to dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools, mirroring California’s warnings of 45 days to shut down or face severe legal prosecution. Colorado approved a constitutional amendment in November 2000, removing “state-level penalties for the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess written documentation from their physician affirming that he or she suffers from a debilitating condition and advising that they might benefit from the medical use of marijuana.” The state has since implemented some of the most rigorous regulations of any industry in Colorado, overseeing cannabis from seed to sale.
Representative Jared Polis (D-Colorado) had hoped his state’s commitment to seeing medical cannabis well regulated would provide a safeguard amongst a series of closures and threats in Washington, Montana and California. Colorado has live video feeds monitoring the medical marijuana dispensaries, employees must wear visible badges when working the plant, and background checks are routine for anyone hired to work in the dispensaries. The state has regulations for the disposal of unsold pot, and guidelines for the safe production of hash. Colorado’s U.S. attorney John Walsh insists his state’s voters “could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores within blocks of our schools,” yet medical cannabis was approved and existed without the 1,000 foot regulation for a decade before Colorado passed the rule and grandfathered in existing dispensaries.
One problem with the federal government stepping into Colorado to measure clubs’ distances from schools is that they’ve brought their own ruler, and it’s not quite the same as the state’s. While Colorado approved regulations measuring the distance of the dispensary’s front door to the edge of school properties, the federal government uses the measurement of property line to property line, “as the crow flies.” This will mean that some dispensaries that had otherwise been told they are clear of the 1,000 foot zone now face moving or closing down completely.
Rob Corry, a lawyer representing some of the dispensaries in Colorado has called the crackdown “a colossal bluff on the part of our U.S. attorney,” saying “I don’t think he has the stomach or the resources for this kind of battle.” Corry encourages his clients to ignore the threats, and while I agree that the dispensaries should have no intentions of moving or closing, ignoring the threats won’t be enough. States need to join together to provide a strong front to our federal government that where medical cannabis has been approved and allowed, it will remain. California, Washington, Montana, and perhaps most clearly in Colorado voters have agreed upon regulations to keep their communities safe, and the federal government should be reconsidering any commitment to this crackdown.
Our battle for legalization is far from over while the medical marijuana communities we have established are threatened.
Websites I referred to while writing this:
This full story can be found at The Huffington Post.