Medical marijuana coalition asks U.S. Attorney Walsh to back off

A coalition of 11 medical marijuana patient and business advocacy organizations — including the United Food and Commercial Workers Union — today sent a letter to U.S. Attorney John Walsh in response to Walsh’s call for the closure of 25 state-licensed medical marijuana businesses.

Walsh has at least twice sent letters to medical marijuana businesses that, while licensed by the state, he deemed to be too close to schools and other educational facilities.

The coalition asks Walsh to respect these licensed businesses and the patients they work with.

The letter:

John Walsh, Esq.
United States Attorney
1225 17th Street
Suite 700
Denver, CO 80202

April 11, 2012

Dear Mr. Walsh,

As parents, patients, business owners, and Colorado citizens, we are concerned by the recent letters sent by your office demanding certain state-approved medical marijuana businesses cease operations.

Since the dawn of this new health care field, we have worked closely with Colorado state and local governments to safely regulate medical marijuana sales and production, and have made great efforts – and gone to great expense — to establish a thorough and safe regulatory structure. Because of this collaboration between stakeholders and state and local officials, Colorado has emerged as the model among states that legally recognize the medicinal value of marijuana.

We stand in unison with patients and governing bodies across Colorado in our active commitment to continue the careful implementation of a secure and community-minded system of regulation. Here is a partial list of our contributions to the Colorado community:

· We have provided vital medicine to 164,000+ sick and disabled Colorado citizens whose doctors have recommended medical marijuana to them.

· We helped author and endorse SB 12-154 to establish a responsible vendor program similar to what many Colorado jurisdictions currently require for alcohol sales.

· We are working with the Denver City Council to foster sensible regulations, including currently working on language to limit inappropriate advertisements, specifically public advertisements near schools and other sensitive areas.

· We worked with local papers, like the Colorado Springs Gazette, to establish community-conscious advertising with a proper healthcare focus.

· We employ over 5,000 Coloradans and provide them with a living wage so they can support their families. We also provide substantial support for ancillary businesses like electricians, carpenters, and engineers.

· Our businesses produce tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue with the first $2 million earmarked annually for programs critical to helping Colorado fight addiction and accompanying mental health issues. The Circle Program at Pueblo’s Colorado Mental Health Institute was on its last legs before this new tax supported it.

· We help create safer neighborhoods through the extensive use of security cameras and guards, by increased lighting in commercial areas, and by occupying otherwise vacant retail or warehouse space.

As committed members of the communities we live in, we believe in responsible regulation of this important, and growing, health care field. We also share your concern about teens accessing medical marijuana and have taken serious steps to reduce any redistribution. We welcome a thoughtful discussion about the potential areas for improvement in the current regulatory structure.

Sincerely,

Association of Cannabis Trades for Colorado (ACT4CO)
Cannabis Business Alliance (CBA)
Coloradans 4 Cannabis Patients Rights (C4CPR)
Colorado Springs Medical Cannabis Council (CSMCC)
Green Faith Ministry
In Harmony Wellness Services
Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA)
Medical Marijuana Business Alliance (MMBA)
Sensible Colorado
Women’s Marijuana Movement
United Food and Commercial Workers Union: Local 7

In related news, Denver attorney Rob Corry has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to Walsh, asking Walsh for all information in his possession relating to medical marijuana.

In addition to his broad request, Corry also drilled down a little and asked for 10 types of documents in particular.

He asks for documentation of what Walsh called “the outpouring of thanks and appreciation” his office received after beginning efforts to close all medical marijuana dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a school.

Corry also asks for documentation related to how Walsh determined which medical marijuana dispensaries were within 1,000 feet of a school. Corry asks for any material related to school children receiving medical marijuana from a dispensary.

Corry asks for the identity of “law enforcement partners” that Walsh said are working with his office to identify medical marijuana businesses within 1,000 feet of a school.

Corry concludes his FOIA letter by noting that President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have pledged to cooperate with people making FOIA requests.

“As far as whether some of the requested information may fall within a technical exception, U.S. Attorney General Holder has instructed you to disregard technicalities in the interest of transparency…”

For good measure, he throws in a quote from the U.S. Department of Justice Website:

President Obama and Attorney General Holder have directed agencies to apply a presumption of openness in responding to FOIA requests. The Attorney General specifically called on agencies not to withhold information just because it technically falls within an exemption and he also encouraged agencies to make discretionary releases of records. The Attorney General emphasized that the President has called on agencies to work in a spirit of cooperation with FOIA requesters. The Office of Information Policy (OIP) oversees agency compliance with these directives and encourages all agencies to fully comply with both the letter and the spirit of the FOIA. President Obama has pledged to make this the most transparent Administration in history.

Corry said today that he has not heard back yet from Walsh or the DOJ regarding his FOIA, but that he has heard from a DOJ spokesperson that the “outpouring” of support has come primarily in the form of personal conversations Walsh has had with people as opposed to letters or emails.

“I want to know — and the public wants to know — how the U.S. Attorney makes decisions and whether public pressure matters. He talks about an ‘outpouring’ of support. Well, if that is what he wants, we’ve got more than 100,000 patients and supporters. If public support is the deciding factor, we can bring that. We’d also like to know what other law enforcement agencies he is working with,” Corry said.

(Image: Kersgaard)

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About the Author

Scot Kersgaard

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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