Summit County Pot Shops Fairly Calm As Fed Crackdown
Local Medical Marijuana Retailers Largely Unconcerned by Rumors of Federal Enforcement Action
Summit County medical marijuana retailers say they're not overly worried by reports of pending federal enforcement action in Colorado.
Despite stringent new state regulations on medical marijuana sales, a law-enforcement official said the federal government is considering crackdown on medical marijuana in Colorado early next year, the Associated Press reported last week.
Rumors are rampant among those in the medical marijuana industry locally that businesses located too close to schools have or will receive letters from the U.S. government warning them to move or close their doors, but no one reports having received or seen one of the letters themselves.
Attempts to contact the U.S. Department of Justice about the letters were unsuccessful.
"Until it's confirmed, or we see the actual letters, it's got to be considered a potential danger of doing business in this realm, which is nothing new," Breckenridge medical marijuana attorney Sean McAllister said. "No one is panicking."
Local dispensary owners believe federal action, if it happens at all, will be targeted at only a few centers, likely those operating within 1,000 feet of a school. Only Breckenridge Cannabis Club owner Caitlin McGuire said she was somewhat concerned about the news of a possible federal crackdown. If the distance is measured from property line to property line her business is within 1,000 feet of Breckenridge Elementary School, though both by walking distance and as the crow flies the Cannabis Club is outside the 1,000-foot boundary.
McGuire said she would prefer not to change locations if possible.
But other medical marijuana retailers say, for now, they're not all that concerned.
"I think they're inclined to leave Colorado alone because the regulatory environment is so strict here," Breckenridge's Alpenglow Botanicals owner Charlie Williams said. "I'm not terribly worried about it right now."
Business as usual? Medical marijuana retailers are getting accustomed to living on the edge of their seat, McAllister said, as this is just the most recent in a series of "threats" from the federal government.
"I think this is a political move by the Obama administration to say they've been tough on medical marijuana for the election in 2012," McAllister said. "That type of position is not going to help Obama in Colorado. . It's a bad political calculation."
The rumors that did concern many local medical marijuana center owners were reports the federal government planned to begin enforcing section 280E of the tax code, which would prevent retailers from being able to use business expenses as tax deductions.
"That's a big deal," Williams said. "That one could be nasty."
The state implemented a new set of stringent regulations on the growth and sale of marijuana this year, which were counting on to protect the state's industry from the kind of enforcement action that was taken in California.
Breckenridge and Frisco voters approved an excise tax on medical marijuana sales in November.
Breckenridge Mayor John Warner said the town attorney thinks any action against the town for taxing a federally illegal substance is highly unlikely.
Colorado currently has 667 retail shops, 246 infused-product manufacturers and 926 grow operations. It is currently a $300 million a year industry statewide and expected to continue to grow in the coming years.
Medical marijuana is legal in 16 other states and the District of Columbia. In Breckenridge, voters also decriminalized the substance.
The Aspen Times contributed to the reporting of this story.
Source: Summit Daily News (CO)
Copyright: 2011 Summit Daily News
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