Last week, U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent a letter to 23 Denver-area medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating within 1,000 feet of a school. The letter stated that the dispensary would be forfeited and seized if they didn't close down operation within 45 days. This week, the National Cannabis Industry Association is telling the U.S. Attorney, as well as President Barack Obama, to "back off."
The Denver medical marijuana clinics are left wondering where they can move, with few already scooped-up locations and the 1,000-foot restrictions laid-out. Aaron Smith, the executive director of the NCIA, told the Denver Westword that the threat doesn't make sense; the then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and Deputy Attorney General James Cole had previously advised local law enforcement not to harass legally-operating medical marijuana clinics with already-limited law enforcement resources. Smith also notes that leaving legally-operated and grandfathered-in dispensaries alone was a directive of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a recent congressional committee.
Walsh's letter also raises the argument that the federal government doesn't have jurisdiction over local city zoning. Smith suggests that the U.S. Attorneys, as well as President Barack Obama, "need to back off and allow the states to run their own affairs and if they don't," Smith continues, "I think they'll see significant public backlash."
If medical marijuana clinics are indeed shut down, not only will it be a waste of money for local and federal law enforcement, but it will also create a stronger black market. Patients living near these seized and closed clinics would no longer have a legal place to buy their medication - and they'd be forced to turn to the street for it. "So what the Obama administration is doing is endorsing black market commerce," Smith told the Denver Westword. "And driving sick and injured people away from what we've already proven is a better model." That model was a legal and regulated industry - one that Colorado already had in place.