Marijuana: Colorado NORML finds timing of pot raids suspicious

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.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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