Unlicensed Businesses Were Targeted in CO Raids

New information about the Colorado MMJ businesses targeted in last month’s raids is emerging. But instead of providing some much-needed answers, the revelations have muddied up the situation even more.

A dozen or so Colorado marijuana businesses tied to the raids reportedly were operating without approved licenses from the state’s Marijuana Enforcement Division, according to an article today in the Denver Post.

The businesses actually applied for licenses before August 2010, but the MED has still not made a final decision in part because of a huge backlog in applications. The MED allows these businesses to continue operating while the process plays out, so long as they follow state and local MMJ rules.

All of this begs the question: Did the feds and local authorities target the businesses solely because they didn’t have licenses, even though they are allowed to continue operating under state laws?

Or is it simply a coincidence that these businesses don’t have licenses? Or are the licenses still pending because something raised red flags among MED personnel – and eventually the feds as well?

According to an MED spokesperson, there are a number of issues that can hold up the application process, from background checks to an owner’s tax history. Non-compliance with marijuana laws can also be a factor. So it’s feasible that these businesses have not been approved for a reason, and that’s also what triggered the raids.

But if the businesses were indeed targeted simply because they are stuck in bureaucratic red tape, then the situation does not inspire confidence in the state’s regulatory or enforcement system.

Had these businesses been scrutinized in a more-timely manner, would regulators have weeded them out of the industry? Numerous newspapers have reported that at least one of these businesses had ties to a man believed to have ties to Colombia drug cartels. If regulators could have simply denied licenses to these businesses in 2010 or 2011, would the DEA have needed to raid the Colorado businesses in the first place?

And the biggest question of all: Are other businesses with pending licenses at risk?

Unfortunately, we may never get answers to most of these questions, as the feds often keep the real reasons behind raids secret.

On the bright side, the state is moving much more quickly when it comes to processing applications, cutting the backlog from 900 a year ago to less than 100 now. It hopes to make final decisions on all the remaining applications by the end of the month.