Multiple Search and Seizures from DEA on Dispensaries and Private Homes in Colorado Leaves Unanswered Questions of the Viability of DOJ’s stance on State’s rights on Medical Marijuana
By: Chelsea Shaker
Colorado is at a crossroads with economic growth and prosperity in the marijuana industry. With the Department of Justice laying the groundwork for individual states to manage their marijuana enforcements as of August 2013 and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency’s interfering with local marijuana cultivation and dispensary models, no one is sure where to turn for clarity. The month of November was filled with multiple search and seizures on businesses, warehouses for marijuana cultivation, and private homes based on multiple reports of illegal drug cartel ties, possible IRS fraud, and non-compliance with state marijuana laws. Officials would not release information regarding specific reasons for the raids except for “concerns with trafficking outside state lines and money laundering.” Clearly another tactic used by the DEA as a last-ditch effort to maintain their police-state stance in the matter of marijuana.
At least ten “target subjects” are involved in the raids across Colorado, including prominent dispensaries Swiss Medical out of Boulder and VIP Cannabis from Denver, as well as a cultivation warehouse used for Golden Goat Wellness in Denver. Also named a person in interest is Juan Guardarrama, a Miami-native, Cuban-American with possible ties to the Colombian cartel with a lengthy criminal record, coined as “Tony Montana”. The extent, credibility, or background of Guardarrama’s involvement with these raids, or any other links that may tie him to said cartels is not available at this time. The attorney for Swiss Medical, James “Skip” Wollrab, claims “They took $1 Million worth of plants from his facility…They didn’t leave any explanation, saying don’t replant. There was no court order of cease and desist. No explanation.” As for VIP Cannabis, the impact of the raids on their facilities was felt by the community, with no regard for Colorado’s countdown to full retail distribution of marijuana in businesses. Customers were turned away. The front window of VIP Cannabis, one of the largest dispensaries in Colorado, was smashed from robbers of a different nature (the DEA) and evidence in any form was confiscated for further investigation: safes, financial records, marijuana plants, and various merchandise. No arrests were made at all. A simple search and seizure, which will end in legal cases galore and impending bankruptcy for Swiss Medical owner Laszlo Bagi, is only skimming the surface of the negative impact and waste of resources this is imposing on our economy, as well as business owner and marijuana rights that are consistently being challenged and tampered with by federal authorities.
It leaves us to wonder “Who is authorizing these raids, based on what forms of viable proof of wrong-doing, and WHY? Jeff Dorschner, a spokesman for the Denver Dept. of Justice, explained to the Denver Post recently that the raids were a joint effort on behalf of local and state authorities, the DEA, IRS Criminal Investigation Unit, and Denver Police Department:
“Although we can not at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation, the operation under way…comports with the Department’s recent guidance regarding marijuana enforcement matters….There are strong indicators that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the DOJ’s August guidance memo are potentially implicated.”
August 29th fell short of a triumphant day for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of marijuana industry related business owners, when the Department of Justice’s Attorney General Eric Holder released a memo giving “clarification” that the federal government would still “aggressively enforce” certain areas of concern around marijuana, but would respect state’s rights to enforcement, legalization, and prosecute at their own discretion.
From the memo’s areas of concern:
· Preventing distribution to persons under 18 years of age
· Preventing revenue from marijuana sales from going to criminal ‘enterprises’, gangs, firearms and cartels
· Preventing marijuana to be taken into other states
· Preventing violence or use of in the process of cultivation or distribution
· Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity
· Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences association with marijuana
· Preventing cultivation of marijuana on public land
· Preventing marijuana possession on federal property
You may be thinking what the rest of us are…”How vague and deterred is this?” This memo does not protect anyone, it established vague language on what not to do in such a way that any form of law enforcement can manipulate and distort its’ very purpose into automatic wrong-doing. Whether or not these cases in point throughout Colorado were valid cases to investigate or not is left to be determined, but what is to be said about the DOJ’s “great memo of the century”, they had better prepare their legal teams with knowledgeable, fact-based memos next time around because American’s are well aware what vague language does for our society. It simply implements grey areas, confusion, and law-bending tactics from special interest administrations whose sole purpose of existence is to keep the citizen’s rights on the hot plate. If 21 out of 50 states in this country have successfully delegated, promoted, and passed marijuana initiatives both medical and recreational, it is time for a bi-partisan, Governor-backed national coalition, backed by the citizens of every state who supports it, to bring down the tyranny and misuse of resources by the DEA and like-minded groups. Let’s offer a much more concise outline. Dispensaries transferring medicine, warehouses cultivating a plant that is clearly not a drug and offering a product to the people IS NOT A CRIME. Having their livelihood torn apart, their business exploited, their financial circumstances investigated is nothing short of a police state that not ONE person agrees to, signed up for, or should stand to be harassed by any more. How to dissuade the DEA’s stance on marijuana is a question that has now gone down in history. Let’s solve it. Good luck to everyone in this similar situation. Or will it soon be all of us?? The plot thickens..