Feds raid med­i­cal-pot op­er­a­tions

Search war­rants part of on­go­ing probe

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY VALERIE RICHARD­SON

DEN­VER | Fed­eral au­thor­i­ties de­scended un­ex­pect­edly Thurs­day morn­ing on mul­ti­ple Colorado med­i­cal-mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions, seiz­ing plants and ex­e­cut­ing search war­rants at shops sus­pected of run­ning afoul of Jus­tice Depart­ment guide­lines on pot.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. at­tor­ney in Colorado, said in a state­ment that the raids in Den­ver and Boul­der were part of an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“While the in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing, there are strong indi­ca­tions that more than one of the eight fed­eral prose­cu­tion pri­or­i­ties iden­ti­fied in the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s Au­gust guid­ance memo are po­ten­tially im­pli­cated,” said Mr. Dorschner.

Those pri­or­i­ties — fed­eral rules re­gard­ing mar­i­juana that the Jus­tice Depart­ment has said must be fol­lowed even in ju­ris­dic­tions where mar­i­juana laws have been loos­ened — in­clude pre­vent­ing the sale and dis­tri­bu­tion to mi­nors; pre­vent­ing rev­enue from sales from go­ing to crim­i­nal en­ter­prises, and pre­vent­ing the di­ver­sion of mar­i­juana to neigh­bor­ing states where the drug is banned.

The Colorado raid is the lat­est ex­am­ple of ten­sions over mar­i­juana trig­gered by the dis­con­nect be­tween fed­eral and state pot laws. The Jus­tice Depart­ment has given states lee­way to pro­ceed with con­trolled med­i­cal-mar­i­juana op­er­a­tions even though the sale and pos­ses­sion of mar­i­juana is pro­hib­ited un­der fed­eral law.

That dis­con­nect is likely to in­ten­sify Jan. 1, when Colorado and Wash­ing­ton launch the na­tion’s first reg­u­la­tory mar­kets for re­cre­ational mar­i­juana. Vot­ers in both states agreed in the Novem­ber 2012 elec­tion to de­crim­i­nal­ize re­cre­ational pot use for adults 21 and older.

Agents with the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion con­ducted raids on Wash­ing­ton state med­i­cal-mar­i­juana dis­pen­saries in July, while Cal­i­for­nia and Mon­tana op­er­a­tions have also been the tar­gets of fed­eral crack­downs in re­cent years.

Ma­son Tvert, spokesman for the Mar­i­juana Pol­icy Project, said he was still wait­ing for de­tails Thurs­day about what pro­voked the Colorado raid.

“The Jus­tice Depart­ment said it would re­spect states’ rights to reg­u­late mar­i­juana, and that it would not go af­ter busi­nesses as long as they are com­ply­ing with state laws,” Mr. Tvert said in a state­ment. “We hope they are stick­ing to their word and not in­ter­fer­ing with any state-reg­u­lated, law-abid­ing busi­nesses.”

Agents from the Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion, In­ter­nal Rev­enue Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions, Den­ver Po­lice Depart­ment and state and lo­cal law en­force­ment be­gan Thurs­day morn­ing “ex­e­cut­ing law­fully ob­tained search war­rants and seizure war­rants,” said Mr. Dorschner.

Agents car­ried out the raids in Den­ver and Boul­der in spite of snow and be­low-freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. The Boul­der Daily Cam­era posted a photo online of a large pile of green plants sprin­kled with snow out­side a north Boul­der grow op­er­a­tion.

“One im­por­tant note: Al­though we can­not at this time dis­cuss the sub­stance of this pend­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the op­er­a­tion un­der­way to­day com­ports with the depart­ment’s re­cent guid­ance re­gard­ing mar­i­juana en­force­ment mat­ters,” Mr. Dorschner said.

Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral James M. Cole is­sued an Aug. 29 memo af­ter the Colorado and Wash­ing­ton votes spelling out the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s eight en­force­ment pri­or­i­ties on mar­i­juana, warn­ing that fed­eral of­fi­cials may in­ter­vene if state and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties fall short.

“If state en­force­ment ef­forts are not suf­fi­ciently ro­bust to pro­tect against the harms set forth above, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment may seek to chal­lenge the reg­u­la­tory struc­ture it­self in ad­di­tion to con­tin­u­ing to bring in­di­vid­ual en­force­ment ac­tions, in­clud­ing crim­i­nal prose­cu­tions, fo­cused on those harms,” Mr. Cole said in the memo.

In Novem­ber, Colorado vot­ers ap­proved Propo­si­tion AA, a state ex­cise and sales tax on re­tail mar­i­juana. Its sup­port­ers ar­gued that the ad­di­tional taxes were needed to fund a vig­or­ous reg­u­la­tory and en­force­ment net­work for re­cre­ational pot.

Mr. Tvert, who led the cam­paign to de­crim­i­nal­ize re­cre­ational pot, said he wants mar­i­juana busi­nesses to be treated fairly by law en­force­ment, but he also doesn’t ex­pect spe­cial treat­ment.

“Colorado has demon­strated that reg­u­lat­ing mar­i­juana works,” he said. “Those busi­nesses that are in clear com­pli­ance with state laws are meet­ing the needs of the com­mu­nity and not caus­ing prob­lems.”

Those busi­nesses that do vi­o­late state laws “will likely face con­se­quences. That is how our so­ci­ety treats al­co­hol, and that is how we ex­pect to see mar­i­juana treated,” Mr. Tvert said.

THE (BOUL­DER, COLO.) DAILY CAM­ERA VIA AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mar­i­juana plants pile up Thurs­day dur­ing a raid at Swiss Med­i­cal In­dus­tries in Boul­der, Colo., one of sev­eral med­i­cal-pot op­er­a­tions sus­pected of run­ning afoul of Jus­tice Depart­ment guide­lines.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.