U.S. Attorney sends letters to 23 marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools warning them to shut down or face federal enforcement action
DENVER – U.S. Attorney John Walsh today issued letters to 23 marijuana stores, formally notifying them that action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property if they do not discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana within 45 days from today, January 12, 2012. 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 (DEA). The 23 stores, located in various cities and towns around the state, are each within 1,000 feet of a school. Many are far closer.
Because the stores are operating within 1,000 feet of a school, enhanced penalties apply under federal law. See 21 U.S.C. § 860(a).
“When the voters of Colorado passed the limited medical marijuana amendment in 2000, they could not have anticipated that their vote would be used to justify large marijuana stores located within blocks of our schools,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. He noted that data shows that since the opening of marijuana dispensaries in Colorado in 2010, many school districts in Colorado have seen a dramatic increase in student abuse of marijuana, with resulting student suspensions and discipline.
The United States Attorney’s Office and its law enforcement partners continue to work to identify marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of schools. As a result, today’s letters are merely a first step to address this issue, and the office will continue to insist marijuana stores near schools shut down.
The Department of Justice has earlier provided U.S. Attorneys with guidance in the form of a memo written by then Deputy Attorney General David Ogden in 2009, later amplified by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2011. Those memos address resource issues, and set forth parameters for individual U.S. Attorneys to exercise their discretion to handle marijuana trafficking matters, including marijuana trafficking near schools. Today’s action is pursuant to and consistent with the guidance given by the Department of Justice in these memos.