Marijuana Regulation Is Largely an Illusion in Denver, Too, But So What?

COLORADO: The Justice Department’s crackdown on medical marijuana has been notably less heavy-handed in Colorado than in other states.

While the feds have shut down hundreds of dispensaries in California and continue to target businesses that supply cannabis to patients in Washington, John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, has contented himself with sending threatening letters to 50 or so medical marijuana centers he deemed too close to schools.

Hundreds of others continue to operate, unthreatened, un-raided, and un-seized. The usual explanation for this striking difference can be summed up in one word: regulation. While neither California nor Washington explicitly allows dispensaries, which operate in a legal gray area unregulated by the state, since 2010 Colorado has licensed them, laying out specific, picayune, and often cumbersome rules for their operation.

But as a state audit released last March showed, Colorado’s vaunted regulatory system is largely an illusion, strict in theory but unenforced in practice. A recent audit of marijuana oversight in Denver, which is home to more cannabis operations than the rest of the state combined and was regulating the industry before the state did, found something similar.

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