A contingent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and local law-enforcement agencies executed a search warrant at the Lazy Lion cannabis club in Colorado Springs on the morning of Tuesday, Jan. 26, according to Jeffrey Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"Because of the ongoing nature of the investigation, I really can't say more," he tells the Independent.
Contrary to indignant posts on the Lion's Facebook page, the feds did not "shut down the club." Nor is the club "going thru a remodel," as a paper sign hung on a chain-link fence bordering the club at 2502 E. Bijou St. had stated.
No arrests were made that day, and no charges have been filed.
So, what is going on?
Matthew Buck, an attorney with Denver-based law firm Corry & Associates, represents Lazy Lion owner Andrew Poarch. Buck says he knows the investigation has something do with the club's finances, but without access to the warrant or knowledge of any charges, he can only speculate about the specifics.
"It's the same way they got Al Capone. They got him for tax evasion," he tells the Independent.
These are uncertain times for local cannabis clubs. The private, members-only clubs aren't licensed like dispensaries, but tiptoe around some legalese to exchange marijuana for cash. Some clubs offer single servings — pre-rolled joints, single dabs or bite-sized edibles — that patrons can consume on-site if they reimburse the club. Others exchange larger quantities that patrons can take home.
Lawmakers are scrambling to deal with the ambiguity.
At the state Capitol, Rep. Kit Roupe, R-Colorado Springs, was poised to co-sponsor a bill to regulate cannabis clubs, but it died mere days after the legislative session got underway.
And at Colorado Springs City Hall, the Medical Marijuana Task Force has been meeting to put together an ordinance or two to address the issues .
Jason Warf, who lobbies on behalf of the Association of Cannabis Social Clubs (which includes Studio A64, the Speak Easy Vape Lounge and One Love Club, all local), says the recent raid makes the need for regulation all the more urgent.
"It's nothing more than a strong-armed robbery against a perfectly legal industry here in Colorado," Warf tells the Independent. "Even though our industry does pay taxes, [the IRS] can always find something that doesn't line up with code. It's intimidation."
If the investigation has something to do with white-collar crime — as the presence of IRS agents would suggest — it could be "certified complex," which means, Buck says, that the right to a speedy trial may not apply.
"I don't think I'm going to have an idea [of the charges] until summer," he adds.
Regardless, Warf doesn't want to see this happen again.
"We'll encourage City Council and state lawmakers to keep federal raids from happening in Colorado," he says.
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