UPDATE: More federal MMJ enforcement on its way

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Update, 4:57 p.m., Monday, Jan. 16: U.S. Attorney spokesman Jeff Dorschner left a voicemail message letting me know he actually meant the opposite of how we quoted him below.

Lastly, I comment that it seems like the previous Ogden and Cole memos made it clear that individuals operating within their state's laws would not be targeted, and that this is not consistent with that message.

"You know, the short answer to that is — you're right," Dorschner says, adding: "But I literally just sat down at my desk so I don't have my notes in front of me."

Dorschner says he meant that the actions are consistent with previous departmental memos and that he would elaborate when we next spoke. I apologize for the error.

Update, 10:52 a.m., Friday, Jan. 13: We just spoke by phone with Judy Negley, co-owner of Indispensary, which operates a location near Palmer High School where her daughter also attends, who told us she has not received anything from Walsh's office.

"We don't have any knowledge that it's in jeopardy," she says. "So, the situation, in general, is alarming to me as a United States citizen. Let's get away from the hoo-ha-dispensary-ownership or not, but as a supposed citizen in a democracy, this is alarming at the very least; and Obama is a liar."

We also e-mailed with local MMJ attorney Clifton Black, who said he's not aware of any of his clients being within 1,000 feet of a school. He also commented on what would need to be done if a center did need to move due to federal location restrictions:

To be able to move a MMJ business in Colorado, both local and State (Department of Revenue, Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division) approval are required. The State will generally allow a change if the local government allows the change. In Colorado Springs changes are not allowed until the licensing process is complete. Applicants were required to turn in applications by September 30, 2011. The City has stated that the licensing process will take 3 — 5 months to complete. Hopefully the City is on track. However, the City has stated that if there is a “Hardship” a change could be allowed during the application process.

——— Original post, 10:42 a.m., Friday, Jan. 13 ———

Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh
  • Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh

This morning we spoke by phone with Jeff Dorschner, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office, district of Colorado, about the recent letters demanding 23 centers located within 1,000 feet of schools close or face potential prosecution. We caught him in the middle of prepping for a meeting, so will be calling back later and updating this blog accordingly. In the mean time, we do have a few answers.

Dorschner says the investigation has been in the works "for a number of months" and is spurred on by "the U.S. Attorney [John Walsh] and his desire to protect kids from a dangerous drug."

The spokesman says the office's actions were not results of any direction from Washington, D.C.

As well, Tanya Garduno, president of the Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council, recently commented to me that "23 centers is pretty good for the whole state." Unfortunately, these will not be the last centers within 1,000 feet of schools to hear from the Department of Justice.

"This is the first step in a multi-wave law enforcement action," says Dorschner. "We've identified 23 dispensaries that are within 1,000 feet of a school; there are more. So we're going to address these first 23, then we'll assess a second wave and look at additional dispensaries near schools."

Are there other centers that will draw the U.S. Attorney's attention in the coming days?

"That I can't answer," he says. "I can only say that our focus right now is on children, protecting them from this dangerous drug."

Lastly, I comment that it seems like the previous Ogden and Cole memos made it clear that individuals operating within their state's laws would not be targeted, and that this is not consistent with that message.

"You know, the short answer to that is — you're right," Dorschner says, adding: "But I literally just sat down at my desk so I don't have my notes in front of me."

While the Indy's in the process of mapping centers in relation to schools, the I-News Network says currently seven centers are close enough to schools to warrant attention.

Most of the schools closest to dispensaries are in Denver and Colorado Springs. For example, North High School in Denver and Palmer High School in Colorado Springs have marijuana facilities within 1,000 feet.

The news organization is referencing Indispensary, downtown. Several other centers listed by the news network, including Viva Diva di Venti, Canna-Pothecary and East West Alternative Medicine, have disconnected numbers, or nobody answering the phone with a full voicemail box.

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