by: John Ingold
Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett has sent a letter to the top federal prosecutor in Colorado, asking the feds to drop their crack-down on medical-marijuana dispensaries that are abiding by state law.
In the letter, dated Tuesday, Garnett writes that Colorado has created a system for regulating medical-marijuana businesses that is working and argues it is not worth the federal government’s time to target dispensaries abiding by state law.
“I can see no legitimate basis in this judicial district to focus the resources of the United States government on the medical marijuana dispensaries that are otherwise compliant with Colorado law or local regulation,” Garnett wrote in the letter to Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “The people of Boulder County do not need Washington D.C. or the federal government dictating how far dispensaries should be from schools, or other fine points of local land-use law.”
Garnett’s letter comes following the most direct crack-down yet in Colorado on dispensaries by federal law enforcement officials. Earlier this year, Walsh sent letters to 23 medical-marijuana dispensaries that were within 1,000 feet of a school, ordering them to close or face civil or criminal punishment. All those ordered to do so shut their doors.
Colorado law establishes a 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries and schools but also allows communities to vary the distance or grandfather in pre-existing businesses. All the dispensaries that received letters were apparently complying with state and local laws.
But federal law makes all marijuana possession and sales illegal. Drug sales within 1,000 feet of a school bring enhanced penalties. Walsh said he sent the letters because he’s concerned that the presence of medical-marijuana businesses near schools may be encouraging the increase the state is seeing in youth use of marijuana.
Walsh has said more letters to other dispensaries near schools are possible.
In his letter, Garnett said federal law enforcement officials should instead focus elsewhere: on terrorism, organized crime or major trafficking of hard drugs like cocaine or methamphetamine. Continuing to target dispensaries, Garnett wrote, “would be very disruptive to communities who have spent significant time and resources exercising their right of local control to balance the competing issues around medical marijuana.”
John Ingold: 303-954-1068