Colorado — On Friday, U.S. Attorney John Walsh’s office issued letters to the owners of 10 medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado that are within 1,000 feet of schools notifying them that they have 45 days to shut down, move their business or face federal enforcement action. According to 7News, the 10 shops that got the letters are in the Denver metro area and in southern Colorado.
This is the third wave of letters Walsh has sent out to Colorado dispensares deemed too close to schools. In January, the first round of letters were sent to 23 medical marijuana businesses and in March another 25 letters were sent out.
After an order to shutdown one marijuana shop was withdrawn when the shop pointed out that the school it was near was no longer in use, a total of 47 of Colorado’s medical marijuana dispensaries have now been shuttered since the crackdown began in January in what has become the most aggressive law-enforcement action against the medical marijuana industry that the federal government has pursued in the state.
Walsh’s office cites the Controlled Substances Act, title 21, section 860, a federal law which references the 1,000 foot boundary for manufacturing or distributing a controlled substance near a school or college, although nothing in Colorado’s medical marijuana law specifies the distance between a shop and a school, the decision, like most such zoning matters, is left to local communities.
“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,” Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett told Walsh in a recent letter. “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.”
However, Walsh is dedicated to this crackdown. In a copy of a letter responding to Garnett obtained by The Denver Post in March, Walsh reiterated his intent to close all dispensaries operating within 1,000 feet of a school, and noted that these closures are “not at the direction of Washington, D.C., but [at Walsh’s direction] as U.S. Attorney and as a Coloradan.”
While the feds crackdown on medical marijuana, Coloradans are getting ready to vote on Amendment 64 and will decide whether Colorado should legalize marijuana this November — a vote that some say could affect the presidential race in a state where marijuana dispensaries in Denver alone outnumber the Starbucks throughout the entire state, The Denver Post first reported.
Amendment 64 seeks legalization and regulation of marijuana for recreational use for adults and the legalization initiative appears to be quite popular amongst Colorado voters. A recent Rasmussen Reports poll from earlier in June showed 61 percent of likely Colorado voters are in favor of legalizing marijuana.
That is the highest percentage of Colorado voter support that any marijuana legalization poll has shown to date. In December of 2011, a similar poll from Public Policy Polling showed only 49 percent in favor of general legalization of marijuana.
The marijuana legalization initiative also recently received support from both Republicans and Democrats — in March, 56 percent of the delegates at the Denver County Republican Assembly voted to support the legislation, and in April, the Colorado Democratic Party officially endorsed Amendment 64 and added a marijuana legalization plank to the current party platform.