LEAP bannerA law enforcement group has sent a strongly worded letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh protesting his crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools in Colorado. The Massachusetts-based group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), is comprised of police officers, judges, and prosecutors who once enforced drug law and are now trying to end the war on drugs.

As Huff Post Denver reports:

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.

Huff Post goes on to say that according to The Denver Post, Colorado is a model of how to properly handle the medical marijuana business, with its tracking, measurement, and taxation of the pot plant “from seed to sale.” Walsh sent letters on January 12 to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools, saying they have to move or close within 45 days of receiving the letter.

As this blog has reported, he cited data showing that many school districts in Colorado had seen an increase of marijuana abuse by students since the state began allowing medical marijuana to be sold. And as Greg Campbell reports in Yellow Scene Magazine, Walsh will be sending many more such letters out: “Those 23 are just our first wave,” U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner is quoted as saying in the Daily Camera. “There are many more, and after we complete the first wave, there will be a second wave and then possibly a third and a fourth.”

According to Huff Post:

At the very least, the Colorado crackdown seems oddly timed. It arrives on the heels of 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.

Michael Roberts, reporting for blogs.westword.com, interviewed Neill Franklin, executive director of LEAP and co-author of the letter to Walsh. Roberts writes:

In Franklin’s view, Walsh’s actions ‘will lead to a couple of things. Those patients who have been receiving their medicine from these dispensaries will now have to seek out other avenues, and I’m afraid that many of them may resort to what is most convenient. That’s the illegal trade, which the last place we want people to turn, because it’s a dangerous environment — a market run by criminals who use violence to control market share.’

Moreover, ‘the medication these patients will receive through the illegal market has no quality control standards. They’ll have no idea what they’re going to be ingesting. And the illegal system makes drugs more accessible to our kids. We know that. In the illicit market, we have a drug dealer on every corner and in every one of our schools. But we can begin to eliminate that trade through regulation and control — and that’s what dispensaries are for when it comes to people who use medical marijuana. They give us a much better chance of keeping marijuana away from our children.’

Franklin told Roberts that Walsh and other Attorneys General are targeting states like Colorado, California, and Washington where there have been or probably will be efforts to legalize marijuana, whereas they are not targeting the other states that have approved the sale of medical marijuana. “There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re trying to discourage not just policy-makers, but they’re trying to discourage voters,” he said.

Image by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, used under Fair Use: Reporting.

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