Medical marijuana deadline update: Second wave of seizure letters coming soon

Update below: Today is when 23 dispensaries receiving letters from U.S. Attorney John Walsh have been told to stop doing business at their current location or risk having their assets seized.

At this writing, it appears that none of the targeted centers will fight this edict. Those that haven't been able to find a new home presumably more acceptable to the feds plan to close.

That's the word we get from Mike Elliott of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. "I haven't spoken to everybody," he acknowledges, "but I think I've been part of the circle of people who would know. And I haven't heard anybody say that a business is planning on staying open past the deadline."

At the same time, however, Elliott notes that "I do know of some people who are moving."

Do such folks constitute a majority of letter recipients? Elliott doesn't specify. Instead, he simply points out that "some of them have chosen not to move, maybe because they had difficulty finding a place or the expense was too great."

The 45-day deadline provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office certainly presented challenges to the businesses, which were previously considered legal under state law because they'd been in place prior to the passage of local ordinances and had therefore fallen under grandfathering clauses. (Most but not all of the centers in question are in Denver.) Moreover, Elliott has doubts about the reasons cited by Walsh for sending the letters.

"It's important that we protect schools and teenagers from marijuana," he says. "But we haven't really seen any credible evidence that these businesses have been causing increases in teenage use."

Not that the U.S. Justice Department needs to make such a case. After all, marijuana remains illicit at the federal level, despite the passage of 2000's Amendment 20, which legalized medical marijuana in Colorado, and the subsequent development of an industry that continues to serve patients in the tens of thousands.

In Elliott's words, "The federal government can really do what it wants in this area."

Update, 10:42 a.m. February 27: Just heard back from U.S. Attorneys Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner, who tells us that all stores that received letters should already be closed. He can't comment on whether each of them has complied, but allows that "to the best of my knowledge, no enforcement action has as of yet taken place."

Dorschner can't discuss "possible future enforcement actions," but he says "if it turns out that all of the targeted marijuana stores did close based on the letter, there will be a point that I can share that information publicly, once we're comfortable with that information."

In a past interview, Dorschner characterized the 23 letters sent to dispensaries by his office as "the first wave," and he confirms that "there will be a second wave. I cannot give you specific timing, other than to say it will likely be sooner rather than later."

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: U.S. Attorney 'not bluffing' about seizing dispensaries near schools."

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