Medical marijuana: Jared Polis shrugs off seizure letters amid sellout claims

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Jared Polis.
U.S. Attorney John Walsh's seizure letters to 23 dispensaries near schools sent shock waves through the local medical marijuana community, since most if not all of the centers were legal under Colorado law. Afterward, criticism of Representative Jared Polis, a longtime MMJ supporter, mounted, with one scene participant telling Westword, "He sold us out." But when asked about such allegations, Polis's spokesman declined to lambaste the Justice Department, essentially giving the feds a pass for the action.

Polis hasn't been shy about rubbing shoulders with medical marijuana types. For instance, he was the guest of honor at a National Cannabis Industry Association event last May. And just last month, he questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about possible federal intervention in the MMJ industry.

At the same time, Polis has downplayed the possibility of a widespread Justice Department crackdown. Last summer, for example, California U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag issued a sabre-rattling letter that seemed to contradict a 2009 memo by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden; it directed U.S. Attorneys not to target medical marijuana businesses in states where they're legal as long as they're following state law. In response, however, Polis communications director Chris Fitzgerald insisted that the sky wasn't falling.

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Photo by Kim Sidwell
Jared Polis, right, with attendees of a National Cannabis Industry Association event in May, including activist Brian Vicente.
"The congressman's preference would have been for the Justice Department to step up and lift the threat of arrest and prosecution and make it clear that state-endorsed, voter-approved medical marijuana businesses aren't going to be raided," Fitzgerald said. "Unfortunately, they didn't take that far a step. But at the same time, the memo doesn't seem to alter the Ogden memo significantly. It still provides U.S. Attorneys with discretion when it comes to prosecutions, and we would urge them to use that discretion."

Many MMJ industry types believe the seizure letters -- coupled with Walsh's promise that he's not bluffing about the threats they contain -- demonstrate that discretion has flown out the window. But via e-mail, Fitzgerald, again representing Polis, rejects the notion that Polis has turned his back on the industry by not launching a full-blown attack on Walsh's policy.

"Congressman Polis strongly supports Colorado's state-legal and well-regulated medical marijuana industry, as it creates jobs and boosts tax revenues," Fitzgerald notes. "He will continue to advocate forcefully for the industry and insist that the Justice Department keep its word that businesses that are in compliance with state law are not an enforcement priority."

However, Fitzgerald doesn't specifically denounce the seizure letters. He writes, "Federal and Colorado law both state that these business cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school and Congressman Polis supports this policy."

One possible interpretation: Polis believes it would be risky, even in his presumably safe Boulder-area district, to be seen as advocating marijuana sales near schools, and he doesn't want to hand a future opponent a cannabis-scented cudgel with which to beat him. So he's trying to balance support of the industry with political realities.

If so, Walsh was extremely canny in targeting dispensaries near schools -- even ones that had been grandfathered in to zoning rules and are therefore legal. By doing so, he's effectively muted much of the criticism that might have been directed against him by otherwise sympathetic public figures like Polis.

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More from our Marijuana archive: "Colorado Attorney General John Suthers rips new Obama administration medical-marijuana regulations."

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Muzzylu
Muzzylu

Medical marijuana, and all marijuana should be legal! It is helpful to people for pain reduction and other maladies, plus marijuana can be a much less harmful recreational drug than liquor, heroin, crack, and cocaine.

Great e-book on medical marijuana: MARIJUANA - Guide to Buying, Growing, Harvesting, and Making Medical Marijuana Oil and Delicious Candies to Treat Pain and Ailments by Mary Bendis, Second Edition. This book has great recipes for easy marijuana oil, delicious Cannabis Chocolates, and tasty Dragon Teeth Mints. 

goo.gl/iYjPn  goo.gl/Jfs61

fed up
fed up

good thing we still have a strong black market, never give it up no matter what the man says.

Monkey
Monkey

Polis never clarified anything. When questioning Holder he never asked about dispensaries, NEVER!!! Holder kept saying "I don't know what rules you set up" but the original memo stands, patients and caregivers are not important to us, commercial manufacturing and sales is still a priority. Industry nuts latched on to that somehow thinking they are caregivers even though Colorado says your not. Stop hearing what you want to hear and listen to the words, go away or be put down like a dog. No one is helping the industry, they are helping themselves while pretending to help you.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Retail Dispensaries were NEVER authorized by Amendment 20.

They weren't even mentioned.

Amendment 20 is about Individual Patients and Private Individual Caregivers, which the Feds have unambiguously said they are not targeting.

Eliminate the greedy for-profit big $$ retail dispensaries and you eliminate the Federal enforcement heat.

WhiteRabbit
WhiteRabbit

Not all patients have the time, or ability to grow their own.The State of Colorado legalized the dispensaries when they started licensing them.It is time for the State of Colorado to stand up against the feds getting into our business.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Fortunately, Amendment 20 provided for Private Individual Caregivers to grow for those patients who don't have the time or ability to grow on their own.

No Dispensaries needed, nor were retail dispensaries authorized by Amendment 20.

The greedy, for-profit, big $$ dispensaries are the problem.

Polis Is a SELLOUT
Polis Is a SELLOUT

"Federal and Colorado law both state that these business cannot be within 1,000 feet of a school and Congressman Polis supports this policy."

WTF? This is from a *FEDERAL* congressman? Now we see Polis' true colors as he tries to perpetuate the mis-information that selling pot near schools violates federal law. News flash: Selling pot *ANYWHERE* violates federal law. Why is Polis trying to downplay these letters? Did he actually read the letters? The letters say "shut down. You're in violation of federal law, and btw since you're near a school, your penalties will be doubled if you are convicted." All the feds have to do is cross out that "btw" statment, and EVERY DISPENSARY in Colorado will get the same letter.

The sad thing is that Polis knows this, and he not only chooses not to act, but he chooses to intentionally mislead people into thinking the federal letters are not a big thing and won't affect anyone else in Colorado.  Walsh said the feds are coming in waves until everyone is shut down.

That's what you NCIA/MMIG types get for trusting him.

Polis IS a sellout.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I liked the political scene better before we lost so many battles and when most of the people posting crap like you just did did not imagine that they knew what they were talking about.

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Despite the belief of some that the cannabis-community is educated about the issues and the laws, reactions to Polis such as described demonstrate the opposite; we cannot expect a single Representative to overturn the Controlled Substances Act, and it is even crazier to imagine that he has some means of fending off the Department of Injustice's parasites.

Mike
Mike

And the biggest sellouts? Rob Corry and Warren Edson. Thanks for throwing patients under the bus guys.

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

Cory and Edson have done nothing wrong. They are defense attorneys. If you are arrested I'm sure either are competent to defend you in court. They don't make the laws, they just understand the laws and the courts.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Perhaps you should ask Stacy Clendenin about Rob Corry's competency ...

Guest
Guest

i guarantee there will be more letters. its just easier to divide and conquer, nobody is really standing up to fight for these centers, next it will be the ones near a park, then the ones near a private day care that opened AFTER the center....little by little they will chip away until there is nobody left. then they will reschedule cannabis and grant GW Pharma FDA approval for Sativex in the US and the selling out of MMJ to Big Pharma will be complete. Just watch....

Kathleen Chippi
Kathleen Chippi

First they came for the Protestants, but I wasn't a Protestant......we all know how it ends.

 

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

No Problem, no matter what the pot clowns say my bowl is packed and I'm ready to get high and have fun.

Guest
Guest

It's nice to see the City and State take $5000-$10000 from each business for licensing, then look the other way when the feds come to town.

Kathleen Chippi
Kathleen Chippi

The state said this was their intention from the start and they offered no protection to the hb1284 business entities.  That was made clear in public meetings.

The state also made applicants sign documents giving up their right to be caregivers---Think about it---the state had them GIVE UP THEIR constitutional protections to apply. 

The state REQUIRED applicants to GROW 70% of what they sold--THE STATE SET THEM UP to be LARGE SCALE distributors of cannabis all the while EVERY federal memo has said that the feds will leave patients and caregivers alone while using discretion on LARGE SCALE operations. 

Like I said when I voluntarily shuttered my doors at the implementation of hb1284--IF I had applied I would have had to go from growing for NO ONE to growing over 10,000 plants.  The state would have mandated me to become PREY for the DEA. 

Myrights
Myrights

he needs to fight for what we colorado people voted in our constitution. If the feds step foot into dispensary restricted area they are breaking colorado law.

Donkey Hotay
Donkey Hotay

Amendment 20 never even mentioned retail dispensaries, much less authorize them.

Amendment 20 ONLY created limited protections for Individual Patients and Individual Private Caregivers, and only for limited personal use quantities.

Nothing more, nothing less.

The greedy, for-profit, big $$ dispensary industry that bum-rushed into Colorado circa 2008 are the ones responsible for bringing all the political, public and legal blowback to the state via their obnoxious, puerile clown show.

Kathleen Chippi
Kathleen Chippi

AG John Suthers has been calling hb1284 and the mention of mmj businesses unconstitutional for years.  Meaning they are NOT mentioned in the Colorado Constitution. 

Currently the Beinor-V-ICAO ruling from 8-18-11 stands as the law of the land and it says patients ONLY have the limited right to possess mmj--NOT even USE it. 

Now we all know that the intent of the voters in 2000 was not to cause harm to mmj patients---it was to do the opposite --show compassion. 

We all know that no one intended for qualifying patients to get fired from their jobs, lose their kids, lose their insurance, lose their freedom over USING the mmj--in private.

We all know that it is nonsense for the majority of the appeals court to rule voters merely wanted cancer patients to be able to carry mmj in their pocket but if they use it they will be fired from their job for using an illegal drug and then not receive unemployment checks.

But the last 2 years have been our evidence of what the state, judicial and general assembly think of the voters intent or spirit of the law.

More blame to the state of Colorado for this federal "intervention" than the FEDS.  The state and the courts have mutilated our constitution--and put in place REQUIREMENTS that BRING federal interest.  The feds have been very clear in their memo's--LARGE SCALE OPERATIONS--will bring federal "intervention". 

joeyrockx
joeyrockx

Agreed, isn't that what being a "leader" is?

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