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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CO: Marijuana Dispensaries Brace For Crackdown
Title:US CO: Marijuana Dispensaries Brace For Crackdown
Published On:2011-12-19
Source:Aspen Times, The (CO)
Fetched On:2011-12-20 06:02:41

Aspen Operator: 'Yeah, It's A Little Nerve-Racking'

ASPEN -- Area medical marijuana providers admit they're a bit unnerved
by last week's reports that federal authorities may crack down on the
industry in Colorado next year, but operators say they're striving to
strictly comply with state regulations while they wait and see what
happens next.

A law-enforcement official told The Associated Press last week that
enforcement action is under consideration for Colorado early next year
despite state laws that regulate and tax the industry -- moves that
marijuana advocates hoped would spare the state from the kind of
crackdown that occurred in California. There, dozens of medical
marijuana businesses, landlords leasing property to growers, and
retailers selling medicinal pot over the counter were targeted in Drug
Enforcement Administration raids.

"It's certainly a lot more risky business than I intended to get
into," said the owner of Aspen Roaring Fork Wellness near Basalt, who
asked not to be named. "Yes, I'm worried, but I have confidence we're
going to be OK.

"In the state of Colorado, we've been regulated a lot more than in
other states. I think they're going to leave most of us alone as long
as we're complying with state law."

Aspen Roaring Fork Wellness first opened in the Aspen Business Center
before relocating to a location outside of Basalt early this year.
It's one of a handful of medical marijuana businesses that operate in
unincorporated Pitkin County and complies only with state laws. The
county declined to regulate medical marijuana at the advice of county
attorney John Ely.

Regulations had been drawn up and were ready for formal review when he
advised county commissioners to drop the whole thing last summer.

"I don't think the county should be in the position of abetting the
violation of federal law," Ely told commissioners in June, when they
subsequently voted to reject the proposed rules. Ely was scheduled to
update commissioners on the state's medical marijuana regulations
behind closed doors last week; the conversation is now scheduled
Tuesday instead. He said he wants to update commissioners on the
status of state law but isn't advocating any change in the county's
course of action.

Last summer, he advised commissioners that the county should not ask
its employees to issue licenses to marijuana businesses and enforce
zoning laws related to medical marijuana because it puts them in a
position of potential criminal liability.

Operators themselves, however, remain caught in the quandary of
engaging in a business that violates federal law but is permitted
under state law. There are 667 retail shops, or dispensaries, 926
cultivation operations and 246 infused-product manufacturers operating
under Colorado law, according to figures from the state Revenue
Department. The state is one of 16, plus the District of Columbia,
that have passed laws legalizing marijuana for medical use.

"Yeah, it's a little nerve-racking," Billy Miller, a partner in
L.E.A.F., said of the potential federal crackdown in Colorado.
L.E.A.F. was one of the first Aspen dispensaries to open when the
industry exploded in Colorado in 2009. Its parent company also
operates two growing facilities, both located in unincorporated
Garfield County.

L.E.A.F. was recently inspected by a state official with the Medical
Marijuana Enforcement Division in a routine check for compliance,
Miller said. Operators face daunting paperwork and filing

"There's quite a bit of administrative work to the business right
now," he said.

Lauren Maytin, an Aspen attorney who advises more than a dozen
marijuana businesses in the Roaring Fork Valley as well as others
around the state, believes the feds will target blatant violators, not
operators who are working diligently to follow the letter of Colorado

"You're within 1,000 feet of a school, you're in trouble," she said.
Large-scale growers could also draw scrutiny, she predicted.

"Quite frankly, they could come in and arrest everybody," Maytin said.
"If they're not going to do that, then they're looking for something."
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