Medical marijuana seizure letters: 22 shops shut, five enforcement actions

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Update below: The U.S. Attorney's Office under John Walsh has now confirmed that dispensaries near schools that received a seizure-threat letter have stopped doing business at previous locations. But this confirmation comes with new info. Although 23 letters were sent, one was subsequently withdrawn. And while spokesman Jeff Dorschner told us on Monday morning that no enforcement actions had taken place, five later did.

According to a U.S. Attorney's Office release, one of the dispensaries that received a letter was within 1,000 feet of a school that is no longer being used to educate children. As such, the letter was withdrawn. In regard to the other 22 centers, enforcement action was necessary at five of them. Drug Enforcement Administration representatives entered these locations and determined that sales had ended, and the facilities were closed.

Walsh released the following statement:

"Thanks to the excellent work of the DEA, working hand in glove with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office, we were able to close marijuana stores that sold a Scheduled I Controlled Substance within 1,000 feet of a school. These stores were closed without incident. This effort is about protecting children from illegal drugs, and maintaining drug free zones around our schools in compliance with federal law."

Added DEA Special Agent in Charge Barbra M. Roach:

"The purpose of today's action by the DEA and the U.S. Attorney's Office was to enforce federal law with regard to marijuana stores operating within 1,000 feet of schools in Colorado. Marijuana, a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, is a dangerous drug -- especially when used by children. The closure of the targeted dispensaries today will make those affected schools more secure for our children and teachers throughout the State of Colorado."

The release also reemphasized something Dorschner told us on Monday: "A second list of marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of schools will soon receive similar letters advising them to close or face civil or criminal penalties."

Update, 10:04 a.m.: I just reached U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Jeff Dorschner, who adds details about the basic facts outlined above.

From what Dorschner's been told, one dispensary on the original list of 23 was within 1,000 feet of an education-oriented space, "but it's my understanding that it's some kind of administrative building," he says. "It's not a building where children go on a daily basis."

When speaking about the five dispensaries where enforcement actions took place, Dorschner first defines the term. "An enforcement action means we have to enter a property using a legal instrumentality. In four of the five cases, the instrumentality was a search warrant. In the fifth case, it was a consent to search by the owner of the property.... She was having the locks changed, so she agreed to just let us in once the locksmith arrived at the location."

The bottom line: "Yesterday, the DEA went to each of the 22 facilities, and they touched every door and confirmed that there were no sales being done and, in fact, that the store was not in a position to operate." Moreover, he notes that "all of the product was gone" at all the shops, including the five where legal instrumentality was employed.

These results more than satisfied the folks at the U.S. Attorney's Office. "Our preference was for these facilities to close without the government having to seize property or seize product," Dorschner says. "From that point of view, the operation was a success."

What about the second wave of letters? Dorschner doesn't specify how soon they'll be sent, but he does confirm that "the list is being finalized. There's still work to be done."

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Dispensary owner whose shop closed at feds' order: 'Screw this f*cking city.'"

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