By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
The federal prosecutor’s office sent out letters to 23 Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries this week, starting a promised crackdown on the businesses by targeting those located within 1,000 feet of schools. But one Denver lawyer who represents dispensaries is advising his clients to ignore the threats.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh said dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools have until February 27 to shut down or face federal penalties, including asset seizure or forfeiture of property, reports Meagan Fitzgerald of 9 News.
Walsh’s office refused to release a list of targeted shops, but promised “another wave” of letters in the future.
“I think this is a colossal bluff on the part of our U.S. Attorney,” said Rob Corry, who represents dispensaries. “I don’t think he has the stomach or the resources for this kind of a battle.”
Corry said the federal prosecutor is “declaring war” on legislators and the governor who enacted some of the strictest rules for any industry in Colorado. He called it a “cowardly threat by the federal government.”
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Colorado Congressman Jared Polis last month that if dispensaries are following state law, the federal Department of Justice will leave them alone, Corry said.
The Associated Press article, in error, claims that dispensaries closer than 1,000 feet to schools are grandfathered in under federal law. In fact, those were state regulations under which the businesses were grandfathered in. The regulations were passed in 2010, grandfathering in shops which were already open.
One possible complicating factor, according to Denver attorney Warren Edson, is that Colorado and the feds measure differently when determining that 1,000-foot buffer around schools. While Colorado measures from the front door of the dispensary to the edge of the school’s property line, federal officials measure from property line to property line as the crow flies — representing, of course, a considerably shorter distance, and opening the possibility that shops will be in compliance with Colorado law even while violating the federal guidelines.