Feds Crack Down on Med Marijuana Depots Near Colorado Schools
Federal prosecutors on Thursday sent letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado asking them to close. The dispensaries are all located within 1,000 feet of a K-12 school and in violation of federal law, despite being in compliance with Colorado’s laws.
John Ingold reports in The Denver Post that the letters say that if the dispensaries do not close within 45 days, the owners can be prosecuted and have their assets forfeited. The federal government also sent letters to the owners of the properties leased to the dispensaries, warning that the buildings could be seized.
“When the voters of Colorado passed the limited medical marijuana amendment in 2000, they could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores located within blocks of our schools,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh, who sent the letters.
According to Katie McCrimmon and Rebecca Jones, writing in Education News Colorado, Walsh said the letters were “merely a first step to address the issue.” They go on to write:
Walsh cited data showing many school districts in Colorado ‘have seen a dramatic increase in student abuse of marijuana, with resulting student suspensions and discipline’ since medical marijuana facilities opened.
An ongoing investigation by Education News Colorado, Solutions and the I-News Network found a 44 percent jump in all drug-related incidents at K-12 schools statewide over the past four years. That increase occurred from the 2008-09 school year through 2010-11.
The figures from the Colorado Department of Education don’t specify the drugs involved, but several school and health officials interviewed across Colorado attributed the increase to marijuana use.
‘We’ve really seen our numbers go up,’ said Judy Mueller with YouthZone, a Glenwood Springs non-profit that works to keep young offenders out of juvenile court. ‘It is medical marijuana that their friends or friends’ parents got. They’re telling us it’s easy to get. They’re getting it from an adult’s stash.’
Education News Colorado reports that more than 700 medical marijuana dispensaries are licensed by Colorado, that there are as many as 56 such facilities within 1,000 feet of a school, and that, overall, 22% of the state’s public school buildings are located within a mile of a medical marijuana dispensary or product infusion manufacturer. Associated Press and Meagan Fitzgerald write on 9news.com that although federal law prohibits medical marijuana businesses within 1,000 feet of schools, the U.S. grandfathered-in those businesses already in existence before regulations were passed in 2010.
An editorial by Wayne Laugesen in the Colorado Springs newspaper The Gazette quotes the state’s Attorney General John Suthers as saying he is not going to oppose the federal government’s attack on dispensaries near schools. The editorial asks Suthers to seek injunctive relief “from this attack on your state’s sovereignty.” However, legal experts agree that in a conflict between state and federal laws, federal law wins out.
According to The Denver Post, Nicholas King, president of the Association of Cannabis Trades for Colorado and owner of the Alpine Herbal Wellness dispensary in Cherry Creek (a couple blocks from Bromwell Elementary School), said the crackdown is a violation of states’ rights. The Post also writes that The Medical Marijuana Industry Group, “perhaps the most influential dispensary- lobbying organization in the state,” said it is working on an educational campaign to make sure pot is not being given to children. Colorado has more than 123,000 registered medical marijuana patients, according to Deb Stanley writing for TheDenverChannel.com.
Keith Coffman reports for Reuters that federal prosecutors launched a crackdown in California last October against medical marijuana dispensaries they said were fronts for large-scale for-profit drug trafficking. Federal agents raided greenhouses and dispensaries in Montana cited as operating illegally, and, in April, U.S. attorneys in Washington state threatened to prosecute growers, dispensary owners, and also state officials who would enforce a state licensing system for medical marijuana.
Here is a short video of a Denver doctor speaking about medical marijuana dispensaries near schools: