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Feds Raid Denver-Area Marijuana Dispensaries And Grow Operations Read More: Feds Raid Denver-Area Marijuana Dispensaries And Grow Operations - The De


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Seven weeks before the nation's first retail marijuana shops open in Colorado, federal authorities Thursday morning raided more than a dozen Denver metro area marijuana facilities.

In the largest federal raid on Colorado marijuana facilities since medical marijuana became legal, federal law enforcement agents with an assist from local police officers executed search and seizure warrants at multiple dispensaries and cultivation facilities throughout the region — at least a dozen in Denver alone.

At one raid in Boulder, a pile of seized marijuana lay in the snow like Christmas trees until a front-end loader scooped it up.

At one of the largest dispensaries in the state — VIP Cannabis in Denver — broken glass from a shattered front window littered the parking lot while masked agents hauled boxes of evidence into a U-Haul truck. Police turned customers away. And the dispensary's website said it would be closed on Thursday and Friday.

Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Denver, said the raids were being conducted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service criminal investigations unit, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement.

"Although we cannot at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation, the operation under way today comports with the Department's recent guidance regarding marijuana enforcement matters," Dorschner said in his e-mailed statement to The Denver Post.

"While the investigation is ongoing, there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution

20131121__denver_medical_marijuana_raid_
Federal officials remove items from VIP Cannabis at 2949 W. Alameda Ave. in Denver on Nov. 21, 2013. VIP was one of several marijuana shops raided Thursday. (Hyoung Chang, The Denver Post)

priorities identified in the Department of Justice's August guidance memo are potentially implicated," he said in a later statement.

 

 

PHOTOS: Feds raid Denver-area marijuana dispensaries and grow operations

On Aug. 29, the U.S. Justice Department issued a memo to federal prosecutors revealing the federal government wouldn't stand in the way of marijuana legalization. The memo warned the federal government would still "aggressively enforce" eight areas of concern surrounding the drug:

 

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A DEA officer walks past a pile of medical marijuana seized during a raid at Swiss Medical in Boulder, Colorado, November 21, 2013. (Mark Leffingwell, Daily Camera)

• Preventing distribution to minors;

• Preventing revenue from marijuana sales from going to criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels;

• Preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states;

• Preventing state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;

• Preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana

• Preventing drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;

• Preventing the growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;

• Preventing marijuana possession on federal property.

It is unclear what areas are being investigated by federal authorities in Thursday's operation.

In March, Kevin Merrill, assistant special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Denver field division, told The Post his investigators were aware of many instances of operators with pending license applications who would not qualify because of criminal records, failure to meet residence requirements or because they have registered the business in another name while they are in control.

At the time, he declined to elaborate, citing ongoing investigations.

Aaron Smith, the executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, noted that many of the raids took place at locations where a number of different medical-marijuana businesses shared space. It is not uncommon, for instance, for multiple dispensaries to share space in a single cultivation warehouse.

In that situation, Smith said, federal authorities would be likely to seize all the marijuana they come across in the facility, whether the business it belonged to was the target of the investigation or not.

"We know the policy of law enforcement would be to take everything at a certain facility, regardless of whose property it was," Smith said.

That's what happened in 2011, when federal authorities raided a north Denver dispensary called Cherry Top Farms after following a truck to the business while investigating an illegal cultivation warehouse. Four people were charged in connection with the warehouse, but no one at Cherry Top Farms was ever accused of wrongdoing. Nonetheless, federal agents seized 2,500 marijuana plants from the business as contraband.

Mike Elliott, head of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, which represents some of Colorado's larger industry players, said the organization has always supported a robust and comprehensive regulatory framework and strict enforcement.

"Really, I see enforcement actions happening as a sign our industry is maturing and this program is working," Elliott said.

Elliott added that details on the enforcement actions are not available and "it's important to remember people are innocent until proven guilty."

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, who pushed for legalization, said he doesn't know what inspired the raids.

"The Justice Department said it would respect states' rights to regulate marijuana, and that it would not go after businesses as long as they are complying with state laws," he said in a statement.

"We hope they are sticking to their word and not interfering with any state-regulated, law-abiding businesses. ... If a business is suspected of violating state laws, they will likely face increased scrutiny, and if they are found to be in violation, they will likely face consequences. That is how our society treats alcohol, and that is how we expect to see marijuana treated."

Rob Corry, an attorney and marijuana activist, said it appears that the crackdown is focused on "mostly mom-and-pop" businesses.

"That is true to form, the DOJ, behaving like the classic schoolyard bully picking on the little guy," he said. "The DOJ needs to explain in a logical fashion why they are picking and choosing , going after only some of these entities when every one of them selling marijuana is running afoul of the federal law."

Tom Gorman, director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, a federal program that works with law-enforcement agencies to reduce drug trafficking and production, said he was glad to see the raid. Gorman's program was not involved in the investigation or Thursday's enforcement actions, he said.

Gorman said he does not think the timing is connected to the recent guidance to Colorado and Washington state from the DOJ, or to Colorado's looming transition to recreational marijuana retail centers.

Typically, he said, such investigations last 18 months or longer and it just takes that long to gather information for search and seizure warrants.

"I have said it before and I'll say it again — you cannot regulate this illegal industry," Gorman said. "You can't any time you talk about money and profits, and dealing with a customer base and selling product. There are too many loopholes, too many ways to get around it. You just can't do it ....

"It looks likes we are becoming a stoner state."

Andy Williams, owner of Medicine Man dispensary in Denver and a board member with the Medical Marijuana Industry Group, said he welcomed raids on businesses breaking the rules and doubts the federal government would target business indiscriminately.

"I want the bad actors gone, quite honestly," he said.

Williams said he is confident the recreational marijuana industry will be well-regulated now that Colorado voters have approved taxes that will go to oversight.

"When the revenue starts rolling in, (state officials) are going to be able to hire the people necessary to make sure they are doing their due diligence," he said. "I think the federal government is going to recognize that."

VIP Cannabis on West Alameda Avenue is a Type 3 dispensary, meaning it has more than 500 patients and is the largest classification under state regulations. Fewer than 20 Type 3 dispensaries operate in Colorado.

Federal agents wore dental masks, presumably to protect themselves from the fumes, as they carried boxes from the store.

Workers boarded up windows that officers had broken during the raid and bolted shut the doors. A Denver police officer turned away customers who continued to trickle past, unaware of the police activity.

Among them was Ut Cobbin, who had been a customer for about five months.

"They were very fair, treated me like a loyal customer," Cobbin said, flashing his medical marijuana card. He said frequent customers could earn points for discounts and valued customers were given a free "eighth" of pot each month.

He said he saw nothing out of the ordinary "except beautiful women."

Neither did another man, who declined to give his name but said he had been visiting the dispensary for a year.

"It's clean, they've got lots of stations, nice people," he said. "I've never seen a problem. I'll have to go elsewhere."

Thursday's actions are occurring roughly seven weeks before marijuana begins being sold legally to adults in retail stores on Jan. 1.

Colorado is the first state in the country to allow legal retail sales after voters in 2012 approved Amendment 64. Washington state also approved legal sales, but the retail operations won't begin until the spring.

Colorado's regulatory framework as well as Denver's framework has been criticized in recent audits.

The state audit said regulators charged with watching over Colorado's medical marijuana industry fell short on everything from tracking inventory and managing their budget to keeping potential bad actors out of the business.

Denver's audit found serious problems with how the city licenses, tracks and manages the booming medical marijuana industry in the city.


 

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I see a pattern here.

Dispensaries are closed by the same authorities that approved of them.

When they break the rules.

 

caregivers/patients are arrested in MI,

when they break the rules.

 

when will our registrants stop breaking the rules, and allow us to prove this system as written can work.

 

maybe a 501(c   would have afforded them an invisible shield? if they were compliant in every other way

It illegal in this country to deduct expenses incurred while selling a schedule 1 substance, geesh, thought they would have know that

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Marijuana: DEA pot raids tied to Florida jewel theft kingpin known as Tony Montana?

 

marijuana-raid-pile-thumb-205x205.jpg Outside a grow yesterday.

Although details are few about Colorado medical marijuana dispensary raids yesterday, we're learning more from warrants that name ten "target subjects."

These individuals allegedly violated one or more of the eight priorities listed in an August memo guiding U.S. Attorneys in dealing with state pot laws that contradict federal policy. One of those is money going toward a criminal enterprise -- and named target Juan Guardarrama is better known among high-dollar jewel thieves as "Tony Montana."

Back in June of 2012, Guardarrama was involved in another raid of sorts down in Miami; it was part of an ongoing, four-year investigation into jewelry heists and the selling of hot merchandise.

 

Juan.Guardarrama.mug.shot-thumb-250x312. Juan Guardarrama's booking photo.

According to the Miami Herald, Guardarrama, 49, attempted to buy about $500k in what he was told was stolen jewelry from undercover cops in June of last year.

During the transaction, Guardarrama also allegedly explained that he was part of a medical marijuana operation in Colorado. He's said to have asked the cops out of the blue if they could help move "some of his Colorado-grown medical marijuana" into the Sunshine State.

That wasn't all. Guardarrama -- who also went by "Scarface" (Tony Montana was the name of the character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 film of the same name) -- then allegedly told the cops about a business partner he wanted "taken out." He reportedly asked the undercover cops if they would do the job for him.

Instead, Guardarrama was arrested on June 7, 2012 and charged with more than a dozen felony counts.

The arresting documents revealed a lot about Guardarrama. Included in them were several accounts of violence and threats to kill other people, such as a man who supposedly owed him $15,000 in gambling debts.

He later allegedly got into smash-and-grabs, targeting traveling diamond dealers -- and police say he was the ringleader of two separate gangs of Colombian and Cuban jewel thieves beginning around 2005.

Continue for more about Juan Guardarrama and his link to yesterday's raid on medical marijuana dispensaries.

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Marijuana: DEA pot raids tied to Florida jewel theft kingpin known as Tony Montana?

 

marijuana-raid-pile-thumb-205x205.jpg Outside a grow yesterday.

Although details are few about Colorado medical marijuana dispensary raids yesterday, we're learning more from warrants that name ten "target subjects."

These individuals allegedly violated one or more of the eight priorities listed in an August memo guiding U.S. Attorneys in dealing with state pot laws that contradict federal policy. One of those is money going toward a criminal enterprise -- and named target Juan Guardarrama is better known among high-dollar jewel thieves as "Tony Montana."

 

Back in June of 2012, Guardarrama was involved in another raid of sorts down in Miami; it was part of an ongoing, four-year investigation into jewelry heists and the selling of hot merchandise.

 

Juan.Guardarrama.mug.shot-thumb-250x312. Juan Guardarrama's booking photo.

According to the Miami Herald, Guardarrama, 49, attempted to buy about $500k in what he was told was stolen jewelry from undercover cops in June of last year.

During the transaction, Guardarrama also allegedly explained that he was part of a medical marijuana operation in Colorado. He's said to have asked the cops out of the blue if they could help move "some of his Colorado-grown medical marijuana" into the Sunshine State.

That wasn't all. Guardarrama -- who also went by "Scarface" (Tony Montana was the name of the character played by Al Pacino in the 1983 film of the same name) -- then allegedly told the cops about a business partner he wanted "taken out." He reportedly asked the undercover cops if they would do the job for him.

Instead, Guardarrama was arrested on June 7, 2012 and charged with more than a dozen felony counts.

The arresting documents revealed a lot about Guardarrama. Included in them were several accounts of violence and threats to kill other people, such as a man who supposedly owed him $15,000 in gambling debts.

He later allegedly got into smash-and-grabs, targeting traveling diamond dealers -- and police say he was the ringleader of two separate gangs of Colombian and Cuban jewel thieves beginning around 2005.

Continue for more about Juan Guardarrama and his link to yesterday's raid on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Tony Montana isn't he the guy on the movie scarface ?

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