DENVER, CO — The deadline for Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries located near schools to move or close has arrived. In the ongoing War on Medical Marijuna, US Attorney John Walsh sent letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries and their landlords across Colorado in January, warning them that they must shut down within 45 days or “action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property.”
“Those who do not comply will be subject to potential criminal prosecution and civil enforcement actions by the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the Drug Enforcement Administration,” the US Attorney’s Office elaborated in a January press release.
The letter was sent to dispensaries operating within 1,000 feet of a school, citing federal law which uses that measurement as a factor in drug crime sentencing. The 23 affected dispensaries were all fully licensed and in compliance with Colorado’s ten year old medical marijuana law. Colorado does not regulate where the dispensaries are located, however all dispensaries must adhere to a strict dual licensing system that requires a license issued by both state and local governments.
No federal law prohibits the location of a physician’s office, hospital or pharmacy within 1,000 feet of a school, and closing medical marijuana dispensaries is unlikely to have any impact on the reduction of the illegal trade in marijuana – near schools or otherwise. It is, however, a possibility that removing dispensaries from neighborhoods could increase the street drug trade, making marijuana more accessible to minors.
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.
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.
Colorado could become the first state in the nation to legalize marijuana for recreational use, if the Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol passes in November.