It's been almost a month since authorities raided Cherry Top Farms dispensary, even though the center wasn't the target of an investigation. But the MMC remains closed, and while Cherry Top reps met with the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division yesterday, there's still no timeline for reopening -- and the longer it's out of operation, the steeper the odds against it ever doing so.
As we've reported, Drug Enforcement Administration agents were watching Nathan Do, 21, his father, Ha Do, 48, Ha's brother Hai Do, 44, and business partner Richard Crosse, 48. The three Dos were principals in the now-closed Earth's Medicine dispensary on Federal Boulevard, but they also had an unauthorized warehouse grow that linked them with Crosse. In June, law enforcers shut down the enterprise and seized 1,865 plants. But cops subsequently learned more cultivation was taking place there
On October 13, various agencies were about to move in on the grow when something unexpected happened. "As the investigating agents were preparing to execute a search and arrest warrant at the warehouse, they noticed the Dos attempting to move some of their contraband" in a truck, U.S. Attorneys Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner told us. "The agents followed the truck that contained the contraband to determine where it was going -- and the truck ultimately ended up at Cherry Top Farms."
Shortly thereafter, "the contraband was off-loaded from the truck into the warehouse of Cherry Top Farms," Dorschner added, "and agents who followed the truck went in to locate the plants that were transported. And when they did, they found themselves in the middle of a substantially larger grow. And once federal agents are in the presence of contraband, even though it was not the primary focus of the investigation, they were required to seize it."
Why? Because all marijuana, medical or not, is against federal law. As such, agents took approximately 2,500 plants from the dispensary and closed it.
The following week, Cherry Top Farms attorney Bob Hoban said he hoped the dispensary would be allowed to reopen soon, since no employees were arrested and the center was in compliance with all state laws. But more than three weeks have passed without any positive developments.
Then, yesterday afternoon, industry sources tell us Hoban and the dispensary's owner met with Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division personnel. Which staffers? Hoban declines to comment, but we've learned the main MMED folks were enforcement director Paul Schmidt and outgoing division head Dan Hartman -- not his replacement, Laura Harris, who'll officially be in charge next week.
This can't be interpreted as a good sign. While the Department of Revenue insists that the reassignment of Hartman to oversee the Division of Racing Events was part of a larger restructuring strategy that rolled out over a series of months, it closely followed public censure by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers regarding Hartman's decision to write a letter seen as opposing community bans against medical marijuana retail sales. The perception: that Hartman had gotten so cozy with the MMJ industry (which Suthers regularly criticizes) that he could no longer head the agency governing it.
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Presumably, then, a positive recommendation from Hartman would carry little weight. Moreover, a decision by Harris to let Cherry Top Farms start selling again would have to be seen as politically risky, particularly as one of her first major acts.
Cherry Top Farms isn't dead yet -- but hope for its survival appears to be dimming.
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Full Spectrum Labs shutting doors until state license is issued."