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Colorado Pot Regulator Under Fire For Letter

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Medical Marijuana (credit: Colorado Department of Transportation)

Medical Marijuana (credit: Colorado Department of Transportation)

DENVER (AP) – A letter by a state official explaining some concerns for communities that decide to ban medical marijuana dispensaries may appear to take one side on the issue and is therefore unethical, Colorado’s attorney general determined.

Attorney General John Suthers found the letter by Dan Hartman, director of the State Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, didn’t violate a ban on public officials’ using public resources to take sides in elections, Suthers spokesman Mike Saccone said Friday.

But Suthers did determine the letter was “unethical,” Saccone said.

Hartman wrote the undated letter in response to citizens’ questions about what impact there would be for communities that are considering bans on dispensaries in the Nov. 1 election, a Denver TV station reported.

“Unfortunately, communities that vote to ban Medical Marijuana operations also ban the MMED from regulating and monitoring any and all Medical Marijuana activity within their community,” Hartman wrote in the letter.

“This ban will not remove Medical Marijuana from your community, but it will prevent the MMED from being able to help ensure that Medical Marijuana sales are regulated, monitored, safe, secure and taxed,” it said.

The letter does not explain that dispensary bans don’t affect the ability of police agencies to enforce drug laws. And under the state Constitution, dispensary bans don’t prohibit patients from obtaining medical marijuana from registered caregivers.

Hartman did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Hartman’s letter was circulated in Palisade, where voters will decide Tuesday whether to ban dispensaries. Stan Hilkey, sheriff of Mesa County, said it could appear to advocate against a ban.

“It’s a slap in the face to the law and a slap to the face of law enforcement — that the only way to deal with this is to allow the dispensary model,” Hilkey said.

In Larimer County, where a proposed dispensary ban is on the ballot in Fort Collins, Sheriff Justin Smith called the letter “wholly inappropriate.”

Desa Loughman, co-owner of Palisade’s single dispensary, Colorado Alternative Healthcare, insisted Hartman took no stance on the ballot issue.

Suthers reviewed the letter at the request of Hilkey and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Saccone said.

- By P. Solomon Banda, AP Writer

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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