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Local owners, DEA respond to federal raids on MMJ dispensaries

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Jul 26 2013 08:04:53 PM CDT

Mixed feelings about whether similar raids could happen in Colorado.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration said law-abiding medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado likely won't be targeted by federal agents, but didn't rule out the possibility.

"The DEA is not targeting users of small amounts of marijuana," said Matt Barden in his Colorado Springs office Thursday.  "We're not going after dispensaries, grow operations, small-end users, recreational users, any of that.  I can't say a raid won't happen here.  We're simply going after organizations that traffic in any type of (illegal) drugs whatsoever.  That's the DEA's policy, not the federal government's."

The DEA raided an unspecified number of dispensaries in the Seattle, Wash., area on Wednesday.  Barden said he wasn't aware of the details, and a statement released Friday by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver neither confirmed nor denied the Justice Department's involvement.

However, according to one report, four of the Washington dispensaries had been in trouble since a 2011 raid.  The dispensaries at that time were suspected of violating state guidelines, distributing large amounts of drugs and laundering large amounts of money.

The situation highlights a continuing conflict between the 18 states and Washington, D.C., where marijuana for medical or recreational use is legal, and the federal government, which still considers the drug illegal.

Colorado dispensary owners have been worried about raids since a series of raids in California and Washington two years ago.  In fact, many Colorado owners refuse to speak publicly about the matter for fear of bringing attention to themselves and being raided.

However, one Colorado Springs owner, Judy Negley of the "Indispensary" on Platte Avenue, isn't shy about expressing her opinion on the situation.

"I wouldn't say that these raids in particular make me more or less concerned," she said.  "I'm an honest person.  I'm not here to be shady.  I feel like I'm doing the morally right thing by helping people.  If you're afraid to speak about your own government, then you've got bigger concerns.  This happens to be my personal line in the sand."

Negley said she supports states' rights and blames U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for the dilemma.  She wants the government to decide on a clear policy for states where the drug is legal.

"Mr. Holder is assigned to do a job, and the fact that I don't agree with it isn't going to stop him," she said.

Negley also said it's not a coincidence that the Washington raids happened while Colorado and Washington are determining how to manage recreational marijuana.

"I think the feds are sending a message," she said.  "If you're thinking about getting recreational marijuana, this (a raid) is what will happen."

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