Federal authorities raid Denver marijuana dispensaries

While the law in Colorado regarding possession and distribution of marijuana seems to be constantly evolving, a group of marijuana growers are experiencing ramifications of the ever-changing law, firsthand.

According to the Denver Post, authorities from the federal government executed warrants and raided over a dozen homes, marijuana dispensaries and other facilities involved in cultivation. The incidents occurred just six weeks before America's first retail marijuana stores were expected to open.

The raids involved the seizure of medical marijuana plants, but no one was arrested, according to a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice's Denver office. The Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigations unit of the Drug Enforcement Administration conduced the raids, with assistance by the Denver Police Department, and state and local law enforcement.

A majority of the raids took place at facilities where space was shared, which is typical in Colorado, where smaller distributors share space in a larger growing warehouse. The executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association acknowledged that, "We know the policy of law enforcement would be to take everything at a certain facility, regardless of whose property it was." It was this policy that resulted in, "a pile of seized marijuana stacked in the snow like Christmas trees" outside of one of the facilities involved in the raid. One attorney for a business whose property was seized stated that the action of confiscating the plants will likely force his client into bankruptcy. Others voiced concern over the fact that one million dollars' worth of plants was confiscated without explanation, without a prior cease and desist court order, and without any instructions other than "don't replant."

According to a publication by the Colorado Employment Law Letter, in August, the U.S. Justice Department announced that while "it will not challenge the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington that legalize the possession and use of small amounts of marijuana under state law, it will continue to uphold the federal Controlled Substances Act." The Denver Post highlights that the department stated it still would "aggressively enforce" the following eight areas of concern regarding marijuana:

  • Dissemination to minors.
  • Proceeds from the marijuana sales making its way to criminals and criminal activities.
  • Movement of marijuana from states where it is legal to states where it is illegal.
  • State-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover for the trafficking of illegal drugs or other illegal activity.
  • Violence and using firearms in cultivating and distributing marijuana.
  • Drugged driving and worsening of other adverse public health consequences connected to marijuana use.
  • Growing marijuana on public lands and the associated public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands.
  • Possession of marijuana on federal property.

The Colorado Employment Law Letter additionally explains that, while the law has changed regarding possessing small amounts of marijuana, "Colorado employers may still enforce their drug-free workplace policies and take appropriate action when an employee tests positive for marijuana."

While the law is evolving regarding marijuana, including possession for personal use, and distribution of the drug for medicinal purposes, it is important to have the counsel of an experienced attorney. If you have been arrested for possession or use of an illegal drug, contact a lawyer today.