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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Feds Tell 23 Pot Dispensaries Near Schools to Shut Down or Face Raids

Posted by on Thu, Aug 23, 2012 at 3:53 PM

Today, the Drug Enforcement Administration told 23 medical marijuana dispensaries—which have been visibly proliferating in the Seattle-area for last couple years—that they have one month to relocate outside of school zones. For those dispensaries that fail to move outside a 1,000-foot radius of schools, playgrounds, and other school zone areas, federal authorizes may raid the properties, seize their assets, and seek federal criminal charges, says a letter sent today by DEA agent Matthew Barnes.

"Your prompt attention to this matter is strongly advised," Barnes warns. (One of his letters to a dispensary is here.)

Agent Barnes adds that the federal government makes no criminal exceptions for marijuana, even it it's "medical," a word that his letter writes in italics and quotation marks.

If you ask me, the feds are being generous here. They don't have to tolerate any of these businesses, particularly when Washington State law doesn't explicitly allow dispensaries.

In that vein, attorney Kurt Boehl says the letters should come as no surprise: Feds have long enforced rules that enhance penalties for drug distribution in school zones, and prosecutors recently sent letters instructing dispensaries in California and Colorado to move outside those areas. "There were some people who were pushing the envelope, because Seattle was a little more lenient," he says, and "some people may have gotten complacent."

Seattle City Attorney's office spokeswoman Kimberly Mills points out that, while the city doesn't have medical marijuana zoning rules in place yet, officials have made warnings clear: "The dispensaries that are located within 1,000 feet of schools are fair game for federal action, as the owners/operators know and have been told by the City," Mills says.

Ben Livingston, a member of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, an advocacy group for medical marijuana, says the letters show that voters should approve an initiative on the fall ballot to legalize recreational marijuana. The measure would provide patients—and all adults 21 and older—protection from arrest for cannabis possession and license store to sell marijuana. But if Initiative 502 fails, he says, it will result in "federal raids for many years to come."

This post was updated at 4:20 pm (truly) with comments from Mills and Boehl.


Comments (22) RSS

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Hawke 1
Anyone have a list of which dispensaries got the letters?
Posted by Hawke on August 23, 2012 at 4:12 PM · Report this
meanie 2
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal DEA!
Posted by meanie on August 23, 2012 at 4:13 PM · Report this
Fuckin' Obama!! Seriously tho, can we get an Attorney General who will reign in these renegade US attorneys and DEA agents?!?!
Posted by DannyG on August 23, 2012 at 4:22 PM · Report this
Wondering on the timing, but this is a measured response. They are growing like kudzu and at least this gets the "What about the kids?!?" troop happier.

Makes me wonder if this is a 502 message, or the beginning of us sliding towards a cali situation...
Posted by Large Hardon Colluder on August 23, 2012 at 4:40 PM · Report this
Granny Smith 5
Getting mad at the feds misses the point. I am as big a pot smoker as the next fruit but the 1000 foot rule is completely legitimate. Dispensaries that flaunt the rules are making it worse for everybody.
Posted by Granny Smith on August 23, 2012 at 4:42 PM · Report this
@3, Really? What did you expect?
I bet you didn't know that in most of this country there's all sorts of laws that tell you where and when you can run what kind of business. It's why we don't have 20 story tall pig farms/slaughterhouses downtown and why you don't see too many strip clubs next door to schools.
Asking politely (as opposed to a SWAT style raid) that a quasi legal pot dealer not set up next to a school is actually a big step forward.
Posted by SPG on August 23, 2012 at 4:45 PM · Report this
internet_jen 7
There is a tiny remote fishing village in Alaska, the origin of the village lies in the cannery. The cannery was built and the town grew around it. Before there was a school there were three liquor licenses established in the town. Now that the school exists the entire town is within the "no alcohol sales" zone. The three existing licenses were grand fathered in. All three establishments are super careful not to get their license revoked, because if they do there is no re-establishing them.
Posted by internet_jen on August 23, 2012 at 5:06 PM · Report this
Lew Siffer 8
How dumb do people think kids are? They are buying the drugs IN school from their mates. 1000ft feel good jerk off.
Posted by Lew Siffer on August 23, 2012 at 6:04 PM · Report this
It's ok to sell beer, caffine and cigarettes right across from a school. I502 will make it even more difficult for mmj access. It stipulates 1000ft from schools, daycars, transit center, community building and Public Parks.
Posted by LakeCityCitizen on August 23, 2012 at 6:44 PM · Report this
The Cannabis Defence Coalition is not limited to MMJ advocacy. There is advocacy for CANNABIS in all forms, for all uses. I 502 seems to carry zoning requirements which will severely limit any access.
Posted by SamWayneSmith on August 23, 2012 at 7:24 PM · Report this
SPG 11
Legalization brings some responsibility along with the freedoms. That's just the way it is and the way it should be.
Posted by SPG on August 23, 2012 at 8:10 PM · Report this
@9 I-502's regulations do not apply to medical access points, collective gardens etc. The regulations apply only to the retail stores I-502 sets up which sell to people over 21 regardless of medical status.
Posted by Paine on August 23, 2012 at 9:03 PM · Report this
kids aren't getting weed from a pot dispensary
Posted by cliche on August 23, 2012 at 9:14 PM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 14


Posted by Urgutha Forka on August 23, 2012 at 9:34 PM · Report this
@12: thanks for providing a reality check to @9's ignorance. Not that it will do much as far as I can tell. The almost willful, intentional misinformation of the the no on 502 medical folks would be comical if it wasn't so potentially damaging.
Posted by gnossos on August 23, 2012 at 9:47 PM · Report this
It seems reasonable until you look at a map and realize there isn't a single place in the city that isn't 1000 feet from a school, playground, daycare, or anywhere else kids congregate. I'd bet cash money that every single pot dispensary in existence got one of these letters telling them to get out of a school zone. 1000 feet is pretty far, it's not like these dispensaries are opening up across the street from schools.
Posted by Brandon J. on August 23, 2012 at 10:00 PM · Report this
@16 is that true? What do the maps look like?
Posted by bozbozeman on August 23, 2012 at 11:18 PM · Report this
raku 18
I don't know, pot dispensary owners seem to love drunk driving. It's probably best they stay in industrial areas.
Posted by raku on August 23, 2012 at 11:51 PM · Report this
When I lived in Paris back before half of you were born, there was a street in my neighborhood that was chicks-with-dicks hooker central. Every weekday at, I forget, five PM or something -- just before the elementary school on that street* let out -- a couple of female cops would herd all of the hookers into a café 100 feet higher up the street** for a coffee and cigarette break while the youngsters made their way home. Fifteen minutes later, it was back to business as usual. Given that "passive" hooking was technically legal (and tolerated in practice) at the time, it seemed like a pretty reasonable solution.

Anyway, I thought it might be possible to just order dispensaries in "school zones" to be closed, or be by appointment only, when schoolkids are likely to be walking past, but maybe our school schedules aren't regimented, uniform, and predictable enough for that to be practical. (Are there still after-school activities in Seattle public schools, or have they been Eymanned out?) Still, it might be worth looking into.

*Here's the school:

**Here's what I think used to be the café: (It's a home decor store now.) You can see the school just down the street, with the French flag in front.
Posted by PCM on August 24, 2012 at 2:00 AM · Report this
Wait, you mean kids will see sick people going to pick up their medicine? Oh goodness, what a horrible example. And yes, how generous and restrained of the DEA, it's so nice of them to pick arbitrary standards and only threaten those legitimate businesses, because their contempt for federalism is way deeper than that, but they haven't locked up every dispensary owner in the state, so they're being pretty nice, right? God bless them for letting the people of this state have any notion at all that they have some say in how they're governed.
Posted by fdigh on August 24, 2012 at 6:58 AM · Report this
Fenrox 21
Good, shut them all down. Karma and so on.
Posted by Fenrox on August 24, 2012 at 7:28 AM · Report this
@16 Really? The headline reads 23 dispensaries got the letter and my cursory look at seems to list many times that many in "Seattle" (110 listings, although I did notice some were outside the city limits).

I can't fathom how anyone with half their synapses still firing properly can think that even quasi-legal status could be maintained inside of school zero tolerance zones. It may be a bullshit requirement, but it is the cost of respectability and legality.
Posted by Pay Up Or Shut Up on August 24, 2012 at 9:16 AM · Report this

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