Nearly two dozen medical marijuana centers in Washington State have been ordered to shut down because they are located within 1,000 feet of areas where children congregate, representing the latest front in the federal government’s war on the cannabis industry.
The Drug Enforcement Agency sent letters to the dispensaries warning that the owners and/or their landlords could face prosecution and asset seizure if they don’t comply with the mandate within 30 days. The dispensaries are reportedly all located near schools or playgrounds.
While it’s certainly understandable that the government would want to keep these operations far from children, this is a worrying development, as it could represent the beginning of a broader move against Washington’s cannabis industry.
The warnings follow similar developments in California, Colorado and other MMJ states during the past year. In some cases, the government initially only targeted dispensaries near schools but later expanded the scope of the crackdown to include other cannabis centers and grow operations, including those that apparently are in full compliance with state medical marijuana laws.
This is particularly true in California, which is the epicenter of the government’s attack on MMJ. Federal officials have sent out hundreds of letters to dispensaries and landlords this year across the state, conducted numerous raids and filed lawsuits against cannabis operations. Just this week, federal agents raided two dispensaries and warned a total of 66 to shut down in Anaheim and La Habra, including those that aren’t located within 1,000 feet of schools.
In Washington State, some industry professionals feel that the federal government has put many dispensaries in a no-win situation.
In the absence of state regulations on the location of dispensaries, the Washington-based Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics (CCSE) encourages MMJ centers to operate at least 1,000 feet away from areas where children congregate. But given the density of Seattle, “it’s literally impossible to accommodate that,” said Greta Carter, executive director of the CCSE.
“So those collectives serving patients have had to make very difficult decisions, and I’m afraid many good organizations could be affected by these attacks,” Carter added. “What confuses me is how this is any more dangerous than the Walgreens that sit across the street from schools and dispenses an array of opioids?”
Image credit: Photo of envelop by chip.hedler via flickr