Marijuana: Colorado NORML finds timing of pot raids suspicious

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Last week, the DEA and the IRS, aided by local officers, conducted raids on multiple marijuana businesses in Denver and Boulder.

While the feds aren't sharing details of these actions, info has surfaced about a potential link to Juan Guardarrama, aka "Tony Montana, a Miami con who, until recently, held a Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division license. Nonetheless, Colorado NORML thinks the timing of the raids is suspect. Details below.

In June 2012, as William Breathes reported last week, Guardarrama, one of ten "target subjects" named in the raids, was reportedly busted "as part of an ongoing, four-year investigation into jewelry heists and the selling of hot merchandise" for attempting to buy "about $500K in what he was told was stolen jewelry from undercover cops.

"During the transaction," Breathes wrote, "Guardarrama also allegedly explained that he was part of a medical marijuana operation in Colorado. He's said to have asked the cops out of the blue if they could help move 'some of his Colorado-grown medical marijuana' into the Sunshine State."

After his bust, Guardarrama is said to have told authorities about some of his cohorts in the jewelry-related crimes in order to get a lesser sentence; he was facing up to thirty years in stir, but ultimately received a ten-year jolt. As a result, Breathes wonders if the man whose nickname refers to the 1983 movie Scarface sang to the feds about criminal activities in the Colorado MMJ industry, too.

Since the publication of our earlier piece, Breathes received confirmation from MMED spokeswoman Julie Postlethwait that Guardarrama "had a support occupational license from August 16, 2011 to August 16, 2013, when he allowed it to expire."

This last clause implies a personal choice, but that probably wasn't the case. By this past August, after all, Guardarrama was in jail.

Even if the targets of the federal raids were actually involved in criminal behavior, though, Colorado NORML is unhappy about their possible residual effects. A statement issued earlier today argues that the operation "has undoubtedly struck fear in the hearts of legal, compliant, State-licensed marijuana business owners a mere six weeks before many will begin retail sale to adults 21 and older in Colorado."

The implication? Even if the raids were justified, their timing -- and the feds' lack of transparency about them -- has a potentially negative impact on the roll out of a new industry the feds pledged not to disrupt just a few short months ago.

Meanwhile, Gerardo Uribe, represented by attorney and Colorado NORML board member Sean McAllister, continues to protest his innocence despite his business, VIP Cannabis, being raided. Within recent days, Uribe has made similar claims 9News. Now, McAllister has sent a letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh again emphasizing that Uribe has done nothing wrong and asking for the return of his property.

That presumably includes what 9News estimates as marijuana valued at $2 million. We've included the letter below as well, supplemented by the station's report.

Continue to read the complete Colorado NORML statement about the recent marijuana-business raids, plus attorney Sean McAllister's letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh on behalf of another named target, Gerardo Uribe, and a video. Colorado NORML statement:

Colorado NORML's Comment on the Federal Marijuana Raids in Colorado

Denver, CO -- While we cannot speculate on what prompted the Federal Government to raid several businesses in Denver, Boulder, and Nederland on November 21, 2013, Colorado NORML believes the timing of these raids is not coincidental. The Federal law enforcement action, in coordination with the IRS's Criminal Investigations Division, has undoubtedly struck fear in the hearts of legal, compliant, State-licensed marijuana business owners a mere six weeks before many will begin retail sale to adults 21 and older in Colorado.

The failure of the DOJ to provide more detailed information, as to what prompted these raids, or to specifically state which of the eight federal law enforcement priorities these raids are based on, is unfortunate. We can only hope that the federal government will keep its promise to respect the rights of a state where the people have determined that the regulation and taxation of marijuana is a better alternative to prohibition and the failed Drug War.

These raids again highlight the need for Congress to proactively address the conflicts between State and federal marijuana laws and the most urgent need for our government to reschedule marijuana into a more appropriate classification under the Controlled Substances Act. Unfortunately, the current conflict between state and federal marijuana laws, the sad failure of our federal government to recognize the obvious medicinal value of marijuana, and the federal government's denial of access to banking and deductible business expenses under IRS Code Section 280E continues to have the unfortunate consequence of incentivizing criminal behavior and a black market which not only survives, but also thrives in many states.

Here's the letter from Sean McAllister to U.S. Attorney John Walsh on behalf of VIP Cannabis owner Gerardo Uribe....

Gerardo Uribe Letter

...and here's the aforementioned 9News report:

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: DEA pot raids tied to Florida jewel theft kingpin known as Tony Montana?"

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.