Amendment 64 passed last November and many in the medical marijuana industry breathed a sigh of relief. What had once been highly controversial – dispensaries in Colorado – was now the norm, with voters overwhelmingly approving the use of cannabis for adults over the age of 21. This came with one caveat: what would be the federal response? Would this invite new attention to our state and the beginning of a massive crackdown? Would the feds see this as a mandate from our citizens? No one knew.
After waiting for months on end, the Justice Department finally issued their response. There would not be a lawsuit to block Colorado’s implementation of retail cannabis stores.
Unlike other memos, however, there was what seemed to be crystal clear guidelines of when the DEA would get involved. These included:
• Preventing distribution to minors;
Fairly straight-forward, this is a huge problem plaguing alcohol retailers, where over 250 were cited for failing stings last year. While there is still not a single case of medical marijuana being sold to a non-patient minor, the goal is to keep it that way with harsh penalties from the Marijuana Enforcement Division.
• Preventing revenue from marijuana sales from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels;
Taking marijuana out of the black market is a key strategy to decreasing the power of criminals who use illegal drugs to support their infrastructure.
• Preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states;
As diversion increases, it also burdens the law enforcement costs that are given to our neighbor states. If we wish to have the will of our voters recognized, we must do the same and respect the fact they do not want medical marijuana within their borders.
• Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
Going hand in hand with guidance about criminal enterprises, the industry must be transparent with where their cannabis is going and keep detailed and open books. The ability to bank as other businesses do would certainly help with the latter.
• Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
Creating a safe and regulated environment with proper security protocols and transportation methods decreases greatly the risk that growing once had, where home invasions could often lead to violence.
• Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
Colorado has been proactive about this, repeatedly looking at measures that protect public safety while still allowing for patients to have inactive THC in their system. This is still a work in progress.
• Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
Particularly important to this is where concentrates can be made, as butane can carry a significant fire risk if not handled properly, and wildfires are always a concern in our arid climate.
• Preventing marijuana possession on federal property.
Colorado residents are known for their love of the great outdoors, but keep in mind that while hiking, skiing, or cycling, you can face harsher penalties for possession of cannabis. As marijuana of any type remains illegal federally, it has no place on federal property.
So what happened last week?
We’re still unsure. Our sources within the industry have told us that as many as 11 different businesses were investigated, including retail and cultivation operations, and the Denver Post has indicated that at least two private houses were involved as well. At the time of this publication, no charges have been filed, and everyone involved should be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Denver Relief believes that no one should be arrested for possessing or cultivating cannabis, but we also agree with many and abide by all of the stipulations laid out by the Department of Justice. The idea behind having a well-regulated market is to take power from criminal enterprises, reduce access for minors, and turn the cannabis industry into a legitimate business model from what has often in the past been a dangerous and unpredictable black market. Playing by the rules is paramount to that.
We’ll keep you up to date as we learn more.