Medical marijuana dispensary closure threat letters in Colorado echoed in Washington

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For the last eight months or so, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Colorado has been shutting down medical marijuana storefronts within 1,000 feet of schools by simply sending the dispensaries a letter and giving them 45 days to vacate or face possible seizure of their property and assets.

The tactic must be viewed as successful, because last week, a federal agency in Washington state issued similar letters to 23 dispensaries near schools, ordering them to discontinue business.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration is taking the reins in Washington -- not the U.S. Attorney assigned to the state. On Thursday, the DEA notified owners of the aforementioned dispensaries that their businesses were within 1,000 feet of a school, playground or "prohibited area," and warned them that they had thirty days to "discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana at the above referenced location."

On the surface, the language in these letters is similar to that used by Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh, in that they seem to leave open the possibility of dispensaries relocating elsewhere.

But the Washington action goes a step further. Copies of the letters are also going to landlords of the dispensaries -- a move the DEA apparently hopes will chill a growing industry by reminding property owners that the government can and will seize their land for aiding a federally criminal enterprise.

In a release announcing the current action, DEA special agent Matthew Barnes states, "I am confident that once notified of the ramifications and penalties associated with renting a property for marijuana distribution purposes, property owners will take appropriate steps to rectify the situation on their own."

Although the U.S. Attorney's Office didn't send the letters, U.S. Attorney for Western Washington Jenny Durkan offers her own explanation for the action in the same statement. And by her own, we mean the exact same that the feds have been using for years: "We all work hard to create a safe zone for kids in school," she says. "There is a reason that both federal and state laws prohibit sales of marijuana in school zones. We need to enforce one message for our students: drugs have no place in or near our schools."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Ten dispensaries targeted in third wave of U.S. Attorney closure letters" and "Marijuana: Amendment 64 support letter signed by more than 100 college professors."

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