Similar to the continuing waves of education-related dispensary closures nearby in Colorado, Washington received its first round of letters from the DEA as 23 facilities were warned to close before being subject to federal enforcement. The rationale mimics that of U.S. Attorney General John Walsh’s ongoing action as the targeted storefronts have been cited due to their proximity to schools. The letters were sent out last Thursday in tandem with a statement released by the DEA in which Special Agent in Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration noted that the government expects Washington dispensaries to follow suit with their Colorado brethren and close quietly without incident. Unlike the hordes of marijuana stores in Los Angeles, California intent on staying open past the enactment date of its municipal ban, waves of warning letters in Colorado were met with no need for raid or legal action as all targeted shops heeded the federal government’s warnings and halted operations.
Further speculation into the DEA’s actions leads to the status of Washington’s medical marijuana legislation, one that is often hailed as the most unregulated system in the country. In sharp contrast to the laws in place in states such as California and Arizona which place state-wide control over dispensary services to patients, Washington law permits groups of ten patients to harvest marijuana for their usage. Heavier regulation is left to a local level which has lead to lax policies and exploited legislation.
While some dispensary owners in MMJ states have closed due to suspected action, many others have tried to voluntarily comply with state laws in an effort to reduce the risk of crackdown. As Aaron Pelley, a medical cannabis attorney, told the Seattle Times that finding an acceptable place for a storefront 1,000 feet outside of schools has provided a constant challenge to dispensaries while unclear limits place additional pressure on these facilities.
“The problem in Washington is we don’t have a dispensary law,” Alison Holcomb, campaign manager for Initiative 502 told the Seattle Times. “Dispensary owners are at a loss to know how best to regulate their activities.”
- O’Hagan, Maureen and Martin, Jonathan (August 24, 2012). “DEA to medical -pot shops: Get away from schools now”. Seattle Times. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- Bennett-Smith, Meredith (August 24, 2012). “DEA Tells Washington Marijuana Dispensaries Near Schools To Shut Down”. Huffington Post. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
- August 23, 2012. “Notification Letters Sent to Marijuana Storefronts in Western Washington Operating Within School Zones”. United States Department of Justice. Retrieved August 29, 2012.