Earlier this month, attorney Rob Corry shared correspondence between him and U.S. Attorney John Walsh over seizure-threat letters sent to 23 dispensaries near schools. His latest gambit: A Freedom of Information Act request intended, in part, to determine if the actions are as popular as Walsh has implied.
This last question arose amid another exchange of letters, this time between Walsh and Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett, who asked the U.S. Attorney's Office not to target dispensaries in his area that are following local and state laws. This request was not granted: Late last week, Walsh sent 25 more seizure letters to dispensaries, and Boulder was a location represented among recipients.
In his reply to Garnett, Walsh mentioned "the outpouring of thanks and appreciation this office has received from Coloradans in affected communities for our program to close marijuana dispensaries near schools." To determine the scope of this response, Corry is asking for "all documents, information, letters, phone messages, electronic mails, and other communication constituting the 'outpouring of public support' for the U.S. Attorney's program." And Corry sounds as if he thinks Walsh has exaggerating this alleged mandate.
"One man's outpouring is another man's six e-mails from anonymous parents," he says, adding that in his mind, this reference "basically argues that the U.S. Attorney is subject to public pressure, which is contrary to anything I've heard. I was counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives' judiciary committee in the late Nineties, and I heard over and over that the Department of Justice was immune to public pressure: 'We enforce the law equally, so don't try to sway us.' That was always touted as one of their strengths. But what we heard from Walsh is the diametric opposite of that."
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner doesn't buy this reasoning. He notes that "I'm not going to go point by point through Mr. Corry's letter," which makes ten separate requests, "because I don't think that's productive. But it's important to note that the U.S. Attorney has received an outpouring of support from parents, school administrators and physicians, as well as the law enforcement community, with the exception of Mr. Garnett."
However, the majority of these attaboys will be impossible to document. "An overwhelming majority of that outpouring has come personally from people coming up to him and thanking him as he attends various events," Dorschner says. "And he's not counting how many of them there are. He's just saying, 'Thank you.'"
As for Corry's implication that Walsh's mention of support suggests he's playing to the masses, Dorschner points out that "when the first phase was under discussion, and when it was implemented, it was done with no public knowledge and no public influence. The support came after his office sent out the first wave of letters."
Page down to continue reading our interview with Rob Corry. Of the other demands for information, which does Corry see as most important? He mentions the one letter sent to a dispensary in the first wave of 23 that was withdrawn after officials discovered a facility thought to be a school was actually an administration building. "I still maintain that demonstrates a safe harbor," he says, repeating a suggestion Dorschner shot down earlier this month. "I'd like to know how that letter was issued -- who decided to issue it and why they thought it was within 1,000 feet of a school. And I think the public also deserves to know how the entity responded and persuaded the U.S. Attorney to back off -- who in that office decided to back off, and under what rationale.
"I've always believed the 1,000-feet-from-a-school thing was an artificial distinction and not a true distinction in the law. But Walsh has made it one. The entity was presumably buying and selling marijuana for money in full view, and with full knowledge, of federal officials. So they don't care about the purchase and sale of marijuana openly under their noses. They care about the proximity to a school, which seems to be the deciding and really only factor as to whether the U.S. Attorney cared about that location. I think the withdrawal of letter establishes that fact without any doubt. But I'd like to know the decision-making process, and I think the public would, too."
The other high priority area for Corry is "to learn details of Walsh's cooperation with other law enforcement agencies," he says. "He mentions that in one of his press releases, and I want to know if any law enforcement agency in the State of Colorado is aiding and abetting Walsh's activities."
Why? "I think that state-level law enforcement agencies would be directly violating Colorado statutes and the Colorado constitution. While Walsh claims he's above all that. I think a state agency would have a tougher time making that claim. And I think the public should know if those agencies are the same ones dispensaries are turning in hundreds of pages of confidential financial data to."
Some observers may see the FOIA request as an unnecessary provocation to U.S. Attorney's Office along the lines of Corry's suggestion that Walsh was "bluffing" about potentially seizing dispensaries -- something Walsh specifically cited and refuted. But while Corry downplays his own influence ("I wish I had the power to make the U.S. Attorney do something or not do something, but I don't think I do"), he refuses to back off from his previous assertion.
In Corry's words, "I still think he's bluffing. He does not have the resources to take down every single center in the State of Colorado, and he doesn't have the political fortitude to accomplish that, either."
At the same time, Corry acknowledges that 22 dispensaries on the receiving end of Walsh letters "chose to shut down or move. And honestly, I can't say I necessarily disagree with them. If I'm in that position and I have a life and a family and my freedom, it's hard to come to an opposite conclusion. But one must have fought it, since a letter was withdrawn. So maybe there was a success. That's what I want to find out."
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By the way, Walsh spokesman Dorschner says Corry's FOIA request has been received and will be processed by the Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys based in Washington, D.C. Look below to read the document.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana update: U.S. Attorney John Walsh rejects safe harbor for MMCs."