Today, eleven organizations associated with medical marijuana, including trade associations and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, have sent an open letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh. How does Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente describe the message at the heart of the document, on view below in its entirety? Before cracking down on the industry, please consider all the good things it brings to Colorado.
In Vicente's words, "We're asking him to take a look at the positive aspects, including increased sales tax revenues, enhanced security and the fostering of sensible local and state regulations."
Numbers are included to back up these claims. For instance, the missive notes that more than 5,000 people in the state have jobs thanks to medical marijuana, with ancillary support also provided to electricians, carpenters and engineers. Moreover, the industry generates "tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue, with the first $2 million earmarked annually for programs critical to helping Colorado fight addiction and accompanying mental health issues. The Circle Program at Pueblo's Colorado Mental Health Institute was on its last legs before this new tax supported it."
Of course, letters to the U.S. Attorney on this topic have a spotty track record. After Walsh sent closure-threat letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools this past January, Boulder District Attorney Stan Garnett wrote to request that he leave Boulder MMCs alone. Instead, Walsh targeted several Boulder centers in his second wave of closure letters.
Even so, Vicente says he and the other signatories aren't worried about a backlash as a result of their outreach efforts. "He's been pretty responsive to a lot of inquiries made to him," he points out. "And this is really the first time most of the major players in Colorado have gotten together to send him a comprehensive, community-response letter. We really hope he'll take the facts and figures in there to heart and perhaps begin to respect the decision Coloradans have made to embrace marijuana as medicine, as well as the distribution system."
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Equally important, in Vicente's view, is debunking the notion that pot from MMCs is ending up in the hands of kids. "John Walsh has consistently said he's going to keep sending out these rounds of letters until he feels he's stemmed the problem of youth access to medical marijuana. But he needs to understand that teens are not getting medical marijuana from licensed dispensaries. It's simply not occurring. These businesses are incredibly tightly regulated and create safer neighborhoods through the extensive use of security cameras and security guards, and by occupying otherwise vacant retail space."
While the letter avoids harsh criticism of Walsh, Vicente doesn't shy away from decrying closure letters sent to Boulder dispensaries near the University of Colorado campus. "For him to shut down these licensed businesses located by colleges, which are almost exclusively populated by adults, is absurd and an example of federal overreach that's out of touch with the community, and the needs of the community," he allows.
For the most part, though, Vicente prefers a less censorious approach. "We're encouraging the U.S. Attorney to take a more comprehensive look at the medical marijuana community and the positive things it brings to the table," he says. "Instead of exclusively focusing on his concerns about teen access, we want him to get a full picture of what an ingrained part of the Colorado community the medical marijuana industry and the patient movement has become."
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More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: U.S. Attorney may target grows with future closure letters."