Medical marijuana: Feds remove holds on bank accounts, return seized $20,000 to MMJ centers

U.S. Attorney John Walsh's recent letter criticizing aspects of HB 1243, a bill designed to tweak aspects of medical marijuana regulations signed into Colorado law last year, hinted at a federal crackdown on MMJ. But the feds' recent decision to return over $20,000 seized from a pair of dispensary owners suggests to attorney Sean McAllister that these threats may prove to be a "paper tiger."

The story revolves around Robert Pooler, who at the time co-owned Doctor's Orders, a pair of dispensaries in Denver and Colorado Springs, with his brother, Casey. Last June 28, according to McAllister, Robert was a passenger in a car pulled over in Colorado Springs on suspicion of careless driving. "They weren't stoned, and they didn't get arrested for DUI," he stresses. "But Robert couldn't find his insurance card, so the cop said he was going to search the car for the card" -- a rationale McAllister considers suspect.

No marijuana was discovered during the search, but the officer did stumble upon over $14,000 in cash that Pooler was transporting to the bank. "The cop says, 'What is this?' And my clients say he owns a dispensary and they're on the way to the bank. So the cop says, "That's money laundering. I'm going to seize this, and we're going to do an investigation.' And very shortly afterward, they seized two separate bank accounts" containing about $5,000 "and turned the case over to the feds."

What happened next? "The feds spent six months picking their ass deciding what to do," McAllister maintains, "and then in December of January, they sent a letter that said, 'We don't think we'll proceed with this.' Then we got correspondence in March or April that said they weren't filing charges and they were returning the money, and they did. So we followed up with the state police and said, 'What about the bank accounts?' And just last Friday, they took the hold off the accounts."

In McAllister's view, the bank account seizure "was completely shady. The detectives went to a judge and said, 'I think there's money laundering,' and they seized the accounts. But there were never charges filed, and the court didn't have a record of it being done -- and the bank said they couldn't talk to us, because they were under orders not to give information to the account holders. And even the DA's office said they didn't have any records. It shows much power the police have to seize assets and hold them for a long period of time."

At this point, the Poolers are so happy to have their money back and the matter resolved that McAllister doubts they'll file suit, even though the matter took approximately ten months to resolve -- and despite the fact that he demanded $120,000 in damages in his initial letter of complaint to Colorado Springs authorities, sent last July. Meanwhile, he argues, "the feds returning the money goes against the idea that they're going after cultivators -- because if they are, why did they give it back?"

McAllister thinks Walsh's letter, written at the request of Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, "was a politicized move. But it shows why we need some Jared Polis-type legislation saying that if something is legal in the state, the feds are going to leave it alone."

Look below to see the aforementioned McAllister complaint letter.

Pooler Demand Letter to Colorado Springs Officials

More from our Marijuana archive: "Sean McAllister on Breckenridge's decriminalization of weed, the Board of Health's medical-marijuana action."

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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