Steamboat Springs Local medical marijuana dispensary owners aren’t concerned about a recent report that the federal government might begin targeting their industry in Colorado.
The Associated Press reported Dec. 14 that an unnamed law enforcement official said federal action was being considered for early 2012. According to the report, dispensaries near schools would receive letters giving them 45 days to close or face prosecution.
If such action took place, it would be identical to what happened in California in October, when that state’s four U.S. attorneys ordered some dispensaries to shut down or face criminal charges.
“I don’t think we’re going to see what happened in California,” Rocky Mountain Remedies co-owner Kevin Fisher said. “The California effort was coordinated by U.S. attorneys in California, again, not federal attorneys in (Washington) D.C.”
Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, declined to comment in an email when asked to confirm reports of possible federal action against medical marijuana dispensaries here.
Fisher said he was somewhat worried last July when U.S. Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole issued a memo stating that those who grow, sell or distribute marijuana could be subject to federal enforcement and prosecution regardless of state laws. It was a reversal of the stance taken by the Obama administration in 2009.
But Fisher said he was encouraged by remarks from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder during questioning by U.S. Rep Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, during a Justice Department oversight hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on Dec. 8.
Polis was seeking to clarify the federal government’s position on medical marijuana in Colorado, one of 15 states and the District of Columbia that allow the alternative treatment method.
“Our thought was that where a state has taken a position, has passed a law and people are acting in conformity with the law, not abusing it but acting in conformity with it, and again given our limited resources, that would not be a priority for the Justice Department,” Holder told Polis.
Colorado voters authorized the use of marijuana for some medical conditions with a doctor’s recommendation when they approved an amendment to the state constitution in 2000.
D & C Medical Marijuana & Therapeutic Massage co-owner Daryl Levin said he thought Colorado’s extensive regulatory and taxing systems, including legislation passed in 2010 and updated this year, have created a model for the rest of the country.
Julie Postlethwait, a Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division spokeswoman, said D&C and Aloha’s in Milner passed compliance checks last week. She said all local dispensaries were inspected Sept. 26 and 27.
Postlethwait said she wasn’t aware of any planned federal action against medical marijuana dispensaries.
Fisher said some dispensaries located within 1,000 feet of schools could face problems, but that wouldn’t affect Rocky Mountain Remedies or any other Routt County dispensary.
“We’re not within 1,000 feet of anything,” he said about his dispensary’s location in a west Steamboat industrial park. “That’s why we operate over here, even though zoning would allow us to be in more visible retail locations. That’s part of our thing. We don’t need to be shoving it down people’s throats.”
U.S. Rep. Jared Polis quizzes Attorney General on medical marijuana