1,000-foot rule is based on a federal criminal sentencing enhancement, not state's medical marijuana law
DENVER, CO — US Attorney for Colorado John Walsh sent letters to 25 more medical marijuana dispensaries Friday, telling them that they must move or close within 45 days because they are operating within 1,000 feet of a school. An earlier round of threat letters to dispensaries and their landlords resulted in 23 closing their doors or relocating at the end of February.
If the stores do not stop selling and or distributing marijuana within 45 days, they could face criminal prosecution or asset forfeiture.
The letters, sent to dispensaries statewide, come a little over a week after Boulder County District Attorney Stan Garnett asked Walsh to stop the crackdown on dispensaries that are abiding by state law. The 1,000-foot rule is based on a federal criminal sentencing enhancement, not the state’s medical marijuana law.
“The people of Boulder County,” Garnett wrote, “do not need Washington, D.C. or the federal government dictating how far dispensaries should be from schools.” He added that prosecution of dispensary owners acting within the confines of state law serves “no practical purpose.”
Walsh’s actions are a continuation of an ongoing battle between states that have legalized medical marijuana and the federal government that began last October, when the four US Attorneys in California began closing dispensaries there. Walsh’s actions come just months ahead of a November ballot initiative that could make the state the first in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Marijuana reform has had overwhelming support in Colorado. Since voters legalized medical marijuana in 2000, Colorado’s bi-partisan state legislature has worked to endorse and regulate, but not oppose, medical marijuana, and that its use and provision to patients should be allowed under the law. Marijuana, medical or otherwise, remains illegal under federal law.
“I believe that enforcing federal law to protect our children and young people from drug abuse is not only a legitimate use of federal resources, but a core responsibility for me and this office,” Walsh said in a statement.
But Boulder District AttorneyStan Garnett disagrees. “I think there are other laws that could be enforced that would actually help us with public safety,” he said.
Due to the diligence of medical marijuana dispensaries in complying with city and state regulations and licensing requirements, dispensaries are among the most responsible businesses selling age restricted products. To date, there is no record of a licensed Colorado dispensary selling marijuana to a minor, unlike the thousands of citations per year issued to bars and liquor stores for sales of alcohol to minors.
US Attorney John Walsh is a 2010 appointee of President Barack Obama.