Medical marijuana: DEA could raid any day, but we go to work anyway, says dispensary staffer

Categories: Marijuana

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Last week, a spokesman for Representative Jared Polis expressed disappointment with a Justice Department medical marijuana memo that some in the MMJ industry saw as paving the way for DEA raids on dispensaries. Polis doesn't think such incidents are imminent, and neither does Colorado Dispensary Service's Jake Browne -- although Browne doesn't dismiss the possibility.

As he puts it, "We know when we come to work that there's the potential of the DEA coming through the door. But we go to work anyway."

Concerns about a potential federal crackdown on medical marijuana began rising following a memo by Oakland-area U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, which seemed to contradict a 2009 advisory by Deputy AG David Ogden. The Ogden memo recommended that U.S. Attorneys not devote significant bucks on prosecuting medical marijuana operations following the law in states that approved them.

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Inside a CDS center.
Then came yet another memo, this one from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, who attempted to clarify the Ogden missive. As we noted in our earlier post, the Cole document reiterates that "it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regiment consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers." But it also stresses that the term "caregiver" means "individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana." In other words, a dispensary isn't a caregiver.

Additionally, the memo maintains that there has been "an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past twelve months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.

"The Ogden Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement offederal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA."

Polis communications director Chris Fitzgerald didn't see the Cole memo as portending an imminent assault on medical marijuana in Colorado, and neither does Browne, marketing director for the four CDS outlets in Denver-metro and Boulder

"Ultimately, I think this is a response to what Oakland was trying to do," he says. "They were talking about 100,000-plant grows on a really industrial scale. But here, we have a state-regulated system where we have tracking manifests and every employee is on file. It's a very different scenario than we feel that memo was responding to."

Indeed, Browne believes state regulation provides people in the industry with "more protection than if we'd stayed under the caregiver model -- and we're glad we took part in the regulation process." He's confident the feds "understand how we've done things, as opposed to the collective businesses you see in California. We have a little more leverage."

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Some of CDS' stock.
Of course, Browne knows "the Controlled Substances Act is ultimately the law of the land, and the federal government can come in and do whatever they like." However, "we feel there are definitely businesses that aren't doing things the right way, and ultimately, we think they'll be the targets" of possible prosecution. "Maybe they're people who never intended to see the application process through, or people who were letting things go out the back door."

That's not to say Browne thinks marijuana should be a top federal priority. "Ultimately, the DEA has a lot of hard work to do in this state dealing with drugs that do serious harm to people, and that's ultimately what their enforcement goals should be -- keeping Colorado safe from things like meth, cocaine and heroin. And I think they realize that as well."

In the meantime, conflicts continue to exist between state and federal laws, as evidenced by a ruling in Aspen that patient Nathan Benner can't use medical marijuana on probation. "None of that's been hashed out yet, no pun intended," Browne says. "But I think the important thing for patients to remember is that 1 percent of federal marijuana prosecutions end up in federal court, and the vast majority of those cases deal with people doing either distribution of large quantities of marijuana or people who have industrial-scale cultivation that's not under any kind of state guise. So I certainly wouldn't see this as a sky-is-falling moment for patients."

Moreover, he goes on, "if they want to prosecute a center in Colorado, they'll also have to prosecute the state employees who licensed us, the accountant we retained, and many other people. It's not as simple as saying it's just us. We're all part of a larger structure now, and even if we don't have a defense at a federal level, there'd certainly be an uproar. If that were to take place so close to an election, I think it would become a big issue."

Such factors could turn out to be the best security a Colorado center can have. Look below to read the entire Cole memo, which can also be accessed by clicking here.

James Cole Memo Regarding Medical Marijuana

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Does U.S. Attorney John Walsh's letter signal end of federal MMJ truce?"

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21 comments
Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

So what is the status of Eli Traufield's case ?

monkey
monkey

I love it how dispensary managers and owners have such blind faith. Lobbying to construct dumb rules and then claiming your in compliance with those rules is meaningless, to say your better off as a center instead of a caregiver is just hopeful thinking, especially when the feds specifically mentioned caregivers as a waste of time. I think you all made a mistake but now you cant go back so you have to defend the new world order. essentially you all put your names on a list for the DEA to find you, they use to have to investigate but now all they have to do is call the DOR, feds can come in, clean you out, freeze all your bank accounts and leave, they don't have to arrest legislators or licensing authorities. In fact, they don't even have to press charges, they can just take your stuff and say good luck on trying to get it back. If you think DEA busts will not happen here because we wrote some words on paper, think again! This might be the first time in history where the war on marijuana is actually profitable, DEA can seize more money than they spend thanks to the wonderful infrastructure and tracking system soon to be created by the DOR, who admittedly works with federal agents. You all got what you wanted, I just hope you don't regret it.

Robert
Robert

Workers should have a better understanding of the risks they face.  Everyone in the community needs to become more political if we are to make any further progress.  Evict the criminal gang known as the DEA from our state and from our nation!

Michelle LaMay
Michelle LaMay

‎"Disappointment" hardly describes the costs or damages to legal businesses in Colorado, whose Department of Revenue employees must be complicit in these DEA shakedowns: Coloradoans, patients and caregivers, have been sending in their names and addresses for a long time (all photocopies ...of red cards can be mined for info, no matter how old and the current ones are evidence of the number of patients a MMC has for a determination of their size for their tax bracket). http://www.cannabisuniversityi...

Jake Browne
Jake Browne

I'd just like to say that I have tremendous respect for everyone in this industry who puts their future at risk every day they walk into work. Hopefully it won't be this way much longer.

Eli Traufield
Eli Traufield

I agree, I owned, in my opinion, lol, one of the best mmd's in Ft. Collins, we gave tours to the police dept, atf, city council showing our pos system, security, safety protocols, all when they had no clue how to do this. I was hoping to help bring it along, my bad for trying to be a good business owner and trying to provide a safe comfortable place for people to get their medicine. It worked! I bought only the best meds from the most capable caregivers, I wanted to keep it local only, endearing us to the caregivers, with which i still am. I did not want a line drawn in the sand, us mmd owners vs caregivers, that was the enforcement division that did that. Hell, I was an oxygen lounge, had a holistic market, had a 30 ft wall of coolers that had juices and beverages. I gave food, groceries and beverages to my patience, free meds monthly, free oxygen treatments, had flat screens and bands playing. it was great! Then the threats started, deadlines kicked in,! We had to sign this and sign that and submit forms and payments to operate "legally". My brother and I had no money for fancy attorneys, heck our dads an attorney! He knew nothing! What he did know was that the other attorneys didn't know shit either and that they were going to make a fortune creating their own niche market as other attorneys are going to make up the rules based on their interpretations. These attorneys are mostly at fault, they tricked the legislator into thinking that we needed protection for dispensaries, when we didn't need it since 2000, why would we need it now?

Please know that the rules were intended for big pharmacy companies to jump in, as they can grow hundreds of plants, provide testing and infused products without one patient! The House bills were intended to make caregivers hate mmd owners and vice versa.

Our business model worked! I paid caregivers slightly more for excellent product to keep it coming to me and to insure that they would not cut corners and to keep it off the black market, hell no reason to if I paid more! This business plan kept meds off the street and keep up the excellent quality. We killed the black market, there was no need for it! At that time only dumb assess were in the black market, I had black market people telling me this!Oddly, there was a home for everyone, those that had inferior products went to other mmd's that would buy it, like the places with the big neon buildings, u know who im talking about, hell they will buy anything, local, mildewy, legal or not. However, My rule was, local, legal only, higher pay for higher quality, I tried to stabilize the market for both mmd owners and caregivers as I was tired of seeing our work go valueless. It is not easy to grow or do, so I paid the caregivers accordingly. Also, caregivers, patients all had a legal place to dispose of their extra meds, which in turned created a tax base that was non existant, as well as creating liquid capital for those that didn't usually have it. So, families were able to eat, pay rent and survive, ahhh, those were the good old days!I had more people swiping their credit cards and saying GOD BLESS AMERICA!Not any more, now I hear an anti American sentiment, as well as a very angry attitude about the law makers. It got out of hand, the rules became 2 many, they are UnConstitutional and we will win in court! I pray that the lawsuit brings it back to the good ol days! Until then, My answer to the problem that I helped create for myself is to withdraw our application, which I just did and start a patient collective! Now, you can come in and use my properly zoned facility that meets all distancing requirements for a mmd, use my grow stores equipment to grow your own 6 plants! Now the patients can see how easy or hard it is to grow and they can enjoy their own success and/or failures. A patient can even medicate in our lounge as it's a private facility with only patients allowed. This model is as it was intended by our voters, a safe place to have access to medicine!

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

The blind faith about an 'uproar' is kind of silly, no one would care if the feds busted the dispensaries.  It's going to happen, and then the customer will just find a new source, it's all part of the drug game, loose your dealer, find another, no one cares about the guy who takes the fall.

Fed up
Fed up

Robert, Give me a call. We need to catch up on things.

bugger
bugger

Land of the free? 

Pete
Pete

Hi Michelle,

Maybe you can answer this for me, are caregivers now required to report the site of their grow with the DOR?   From dong web searches, I don't see any mechanism in place for caregivers to do this even if they want to.  I'm pretty confused by the whole new law.  The State of Colorado does a terrible job of spelling out nice and neatly what the rules are in a manner that we can all understand.  Feels like they are out to screw you one way or another.  

Kindlewaters
Kindlewaters

I am all for medical mj, but i gotta be honest; ive sat across the street at a coffee shop near a mmj america dispensary in denver and about 95% of the so called recommended patients are the youth, too young to even buy alcohol. I do not have a recommendation but i do occasionally use eatables when i blow out my back with work, about 4 times a year. that and yoga fix it. these kids that keep the dispensary's open DO NOT need a recommendation. 100%in favor of medical MJ - 0% in favor of the system that "recommends" the bullshit "script". Just another way to dumb down our youth if you ask me, yet you people believe you're liberated.  

Fed up
Fed up

Thanks for speaking out Mr. Jake Browne. We will make sure to put you in our file of "people to prosecute". Its sounds like we can hit a gold mine once we start digging into you. Your Friend,The Spook

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Thanks to adding to the post, Jake. Much appreciated.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Thanks for sharing that.  As you said medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, so hopefully now you will realize that you don't have to sign anything or worry about anything, just follow Amendment 20 and forget the rest of the hoopla and the attorney pot clowns who just want more bogus rules and laws.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Fascinating post, Eli. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Eli Traufield
Eli Traufield

You sir, are absolutely correct! After my arrest, everyone dissapeared! I was growing for my dispensary, all legal at the time, My home got raided by the police, cut down over 450 plants after reviewing my paper work. Then it got worse, even though I spent the weekend in jail, by the time I got out, my "friends" robbed me more than anyone! My "friends" went into my home and dispensary, took all my edibles and top shelf medicine, to potentially "relieve" me of any possible additional evidence, "to help me out", which included my dvd collection, baseball card collection, smoking devices, furniture, fridge, tools, growing supplies and more.

Only less than a handful of patients stayed loyal, It's strangely funny because all have cards and none will ever go into a dispensary ever again!

As far as the other patients, about 100 or so, never heard from again. I am going to trial to fight for my freedom of facing 16 yrs in prison in Ft. Collins on Sept. 26, 2011, Do they care, I don't know.

I hope and pray that the patients that I request to testify actually show up, that will be the true test. On a positive note, I do have one patient so far, flying from CA to testify on my behalf, so 1 down, 99 to go.

So, ya, fight for your patience rights, maybe, just maybe, they will fight for yours. One can only hope.

there will be no uproar, no overthrowing a criminal regime, no drastic policy or administrative changes, nothing! There will be no revolts or protests like in Egypt or France, no holding the President accountable for his lies to not prosecute mmj patients and caregivers.

It would be nice if there was a revolt, however, the truth is, mj pacifies those that have it, those that don't will be pacified when they do! MJ makes us happy and peacful, unless your going through something horrible, there just isn't a point to being in a uproar.

The police took my son away for almost a year, I am still fighting to get him back. remember, no child was at the grow, taking my son from me was a way to force me into submission and do their will. Sound familiar? The state and local government will find ways to force you into submission. They will find what is nearest and dearest to your heart and attack it! I know so many people wanting to be a marter and fight and be a hero. Guess what, you can have my spot! I'm done being a marter for people who could care less, Im done fighting for a cause that will just go back underground where it shouldve stayed. My biggest flaw, was asking for permission, trusting the police and thinking I was safe!

I am so angry and enraged that unless I use my emotions for something positive, something very negative and destructive could happen. Especially when I'm looking at 16 years in prison. My mentality is, I might as well do something to make it worth it.

If any of you are enraged as I am, feel free to show up Sept 26. 2011 Larimer Cty Court house, Ft. Collins, CO, a place where you are guilty till proven innocent!

Bring your friends, signs and anger, let the DA and jury know how you feel.

Any bands wana play, let's turn it into a party, lol

I'm going back to my old school motto that a philospher, actor, song writer wrote, "FUCK THE POLICE!"

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

The plant will always rule the mind of those who use it and talk about it regardless of what politicians think.  This is a rouge war, the less organization the better.  Join together and you join a sinking ship.  Live free like the plant, catch me if you can, and reign free of all the pot clowns and their nonsense drug rants.

Michael Roberts
Michael Roberts

Succinct and to the point, bugger. Thanks for weighing in.

Kindlewaters
Kindlewaters

I am all for medical mj, but i gotta be honest; ive sat across the street at a coffee shop near a mmj america dispensary in denver and about 95% of the so called recommended patients are the youth, too young to even buy alcohol. I do not have a recommendation but i do occasionally use eatables when i blow out my back with work, about 4 times a year. that and yoga fix it. these kids that keep the dispensary's open DO NOT need a recommendation. 100%in favor of medical MJ - 0% in favor of the system that "recommends" the bullshit "script". Just another way to dumb down our youth if you ask me, yet you people believe you're liberated. 

Eli Traufield
Eli Traufield

I've been screaming at the mountain tops about my Amendment 20 rights for almost a year now!

My public defender, Kathryn Hay said, Our Constitution is fickle, she said, you will be convicted and spend many years in prison, when she was trying to get me to take a plea bargain she said, "What, You gonna run around the court room with an American Flag on your back?" I said, yes, as a matter of fact, I'll bring my cape and cowel, not funny, she said.

I'll let you know on Oct. 1 2011, when the Jury reads the verdict, if our Constitutional rights hold up or if they are fickle as my attorney says.

I'd like to think out of 12 jurors, 1 of them is not an idiot and is pro Constitution, so I will roll that dice. 16 years in prison? Who can afford that? Not me, however, I live in the mindset that there is at least 1 educated, pro Constitution, pro legal rights minded person out of 12.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Amen Fuck the police and the Colorado medical police state of marijuana distribution leading to arrest.

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