Sep 29, 2011 8:38 PM by Stephanie Collins

Medical marijuana dispensaries face ongoing battle with federal laws

There's an ongoing battle over medical marijuana when it comes to Colorado state law versus federal law.

Tension with banks is one of the newest and biggest issues. The last bank working with state marijuana shops, Colorado Springs State Bank, is dropping them, "It's illegal federally, so the FDIC and other federal regulators of these banks, are telling them not to accept us and they might be charged with money laundering if they do accept our money and business," explains Lester Komperda of Higher Elevation Medical Products in the Springs.

Colorado Springs State Bank didn't respond to our request for a comment.

In June of this year the U.S. Deputy Attorney sent a letter to district attorneys saying, "Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law...Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws."

This new development leaves medial marijuana patients paying only with cash and dispensaries scrambling to find a place to keep it all, "We will be stockpiling money, and will have to pay all our bills with cashier's checks, money orders, those type of things," says Komperda.

Another issue coming to light recently, medical marijuana users can't buy a gun. When you register for a medical marijuana card your name goes on a federal and state list. That information shows up on a background check, which everyone must pass before purchasing a gun, and because marijuana is federally illegal, users won't pass.

At Dragon Arms, owner Terry Flanell doesn't come across it often, but recently had a customer get pretty frustrated, "He felt he had a legal prescription for this and now he's being treated almost like a felon. I can't buy a gun? You're telling me I can't have a gun?" she explains.

It's a frustration dispensaries share as they face the uncertainty of where things will go next.

Dispensaries we talked to did say that with all the cash they'll now have in their shops, they're worried now more than ever about their safety, but they add that as long as it's legal in Colorado, they'll be around.



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