DENVER — Just weeks before shops are to start selling marijuana for recreational use in Colorado, federal and local law enforcement raided stores across the Metro area Thursday morning.
The raids were conducted by the Internal Revenue Servicem criminal investigations unit, the Drug Enforcement Agency and Denver police, among others.
A spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Denver said the agencies were “executing lawfully obtained search warrants and seizure warrants.”
“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,” spokesman Jeff Dorschner said.
At least a dozen shops were searched in Denver including VIP Cannabis on W. Alameda and Cherry Top Farms on Brighton Boulevard, a source told FOX31 Denver. Swiss Medical Industries on N. Foothills Parkway in Boulder was also searched, the source said.
The Daily Camera reported a search and seizure operation happened in North Boulder.
A reporter there saw a pile of marijuana plants on the snowy ground that were loaded into a dump truck and taken away.
At VIP Cannibals, agents in masks were seen loading boxes of evidence into a U-Haul.
Officials have released few details about the searches, including what specifically they were looking for and why.
Voters in Colorado approved the sale of small amounts of recreational marijuana in Amendment 64. The new law takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
In July federal agents raided marijuana dispensaries in Washington state, where marijuana is legal. In those raids, owners said agents took business records and marijuana plants.
The Department of Justice said in August that it would not block Colorado law on marijuana as long as businesses followed regulations set up by the state.
The Justice Department outlined eight top priority areas for its enforcement of marijuana laws, including: preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors to preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels and preventing the diversion of marijuana outside of states where it is legal under state law.
Industry supporters said searches like the ones that happened Thursday may be a sign that a regulated industry is working.
“While everyone involved in these raids should be considered innocent until proven guilty, enforcement is a sign that this program is working and maturing,” said Michael Elliott, Executive Director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group. “MMIG continues to support robust and comprehensive regulations for cannabis businesses, along with strict enforcement.”
“We hope they are sticking to their word and not interfering with any state-regulated, law-abiding businesses,” said Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, in a statement. “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.”
After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Thomas worked as a web writer for KMGH in Denver. In November 2012, joined the web staff at KDVR as Digital Content Manager.
Feel free to send comments to [email protected] or call 303-566-7590.
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