Medical marijuana advocate sees DA's hand in searches

JOEL MILLMAN Updated: May 13, 2010 at 12:00 am • Published: May 13, 2010

Colorado Springs police searched seven medical marijuana dispensaries in the city Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation, said Sgt. B. Poole of the region's Metro Vice, Narcotics and Intelligence squad.

No arrests were made and Poole declined to say what police were looking into, saying it was an ongoing investigaiton and would be reviewed by the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office before any information could be released.

Sunshine Wellness Center, which has a physician who refers patients seeking a medical marijuana license, was not among those that were searched, but an employee said she heard police were checking that the growers were complying with state laws regarding the number of patients dispensaries can have and the plants they can grow.

Tanya Garduno, president of the Colorado Springs Medical Canabis Council, which represents patients, caregivers and dispensaries in the area, said the group has been meeting with law enforcement officials to discuss mutual concerns and was surprised by the searches.

"We were given no indication of an investigation," she said Thursday. "This pretty much blind-sided us."

The searches were conducted the day after the Legislature gave final approval to a bill regulating the medical marijuana industry. 

HB1284 would create state licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries and allow local governments to regulate or ban dispensaries outright. The law, which Gov. Bill Ritter is expected to sign,  also would set state residency requirements for dispensary owners, prohibit kickbacks from dispensaries to doctors that refer patients for medical marijuana and tighten restrictions on minors using medical marijuana.

Garduno said she suspected 4th Judicial District Attorney Dan May, an outspoken critic of the medical marijuana dispensaries, had a hand in the searches being conducted so soon after lawmakers approved the new regulations.

DA's spokeswoman Kathleen Walsh denied that May played a role in orchestrating the searches, saying the office only becomes involved if someone is arrested.

Among the places searched Wednesday was a building where the owner of a local dispensary grows marijuana he sells to his patients. The dispensary owner, who asked that his name not be used, said police obtained the key from the building owner and did not break in or damage anything.

The dispensary owner was not at the building while it was being searched, but according to the warrant, police were looking for marijuana plants, guns, money and narcotics, he said.

"It was all pretty ridiculous," the dispensary owner said. "There were 60 plants there and I think they thought they were going to find thousands. The sergeant in charge let it slip that Dan May had pushed for the searches."

Stay with gazette.com for updates on this story.

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