Don’t bust medical cannabis sellers near schools, say officials

Sep 20, 2012

Medical cannabis advocates and some local officials say the federal government should leave marijuana businesses alone, even if they sell near Seattle schools. The advocates decried a recent wave of enforcement, framing it as an assault on patients and law-abiding businesses.

The Drug Enforcement Administration began sending letters in August to 26 Seattle-area storefronts selling medical cannabis. The DEA wrote that the businesses were operating within 1,000 feet of schools or other prohibited zones, and warned them to move or close, or else face stiff penalties.

Supporters of medical cannabis, such as State Representative Roger Goodman of Kirkland, said it’s part of a war of attrition by the feds.

“Our message to the federal government is, get off our backs. We’re doing it right. The federal policy for the last 40 years has been the most corrosive, disastrous bipartisan failure in social policy and health policy. And the states are getting it right,” Rep. Goodman said.

Goodman, joined by Seattle city council member Nick Licata, said even dispensaries near schools are well within Washington state law. The law beefs up penalties for marijuana sales near a school, but does not actually prohibit selling medical cannabis there. Really, state law doesn’t explicitly permit dispensaries at all – they operate based on an interpretation of a clause that allows collective gardens.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan’s office declined to comment, except to note that all marijuana sales violate federal law.