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Colorado medical marijuana shops in federal crosshairs

January 28, 2012 |  8:14 am

Colorado marijuana
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors sent letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, ordering them to shut down or face criminal charges. Now the owners must decide: stay and fight, or go?

"I feel like fighting," Diane Irwin, owner of Highland Health dispensary, told The Denver Post. "But I don't want to go to jail, either."

Irwin’s Denver business, which recently added a yoga room and more space for a hypnotherapist, is within 1,000 feet of a school. So were the others targeted by Colorado U.S. attorney John Walsh, who gave them until Feb. 27 to close.

Walsh told the Post that the dispensaries were a potential “threat to kids” because schools had seen a spike in drug-related violations as more medical cannabis outlets opened. Marijuana advocates said prosecutors were overreaching, particularly since the state has some of the nation’s toughest medical cannabis regulations.

Medical pot has strong backing in Colorado. The state was the nation's first to issue state-level business licenses for marijuana-related operations. Meanwhile, advocates are trying to get an initiative on the November ballot that would allow people 21 and older to legally posses up to an ounce of pot.


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Photo: A man smokes marijuana during a 2010 pro-marijuana rally at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. Credit: Chris Hondros / Getty Images