On Thursday the DEA says it sent letters to 23 (yet to be fully revealed) area medical marijuana dispensaries determined to be located within "1,000 feet of a school, playground or other prohibited area" - ordering them to shut down or face the seizure and forfeiture of assets and profits, along with criminal prosecution. Today many medical marijuana activist (and just plain marijuana activists), including non-profit political organization Sensible Washington, condemned the action.
These comments, of course, come in response to yesterday's declarations from officials with the U.S. Attorney's Office and DEA saying medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives pose a threat when located too close to places where children are present. U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington Jenny Durkan noted that the letters - in addition to warning medical marijuana dispensary operators and property owners of the potential federal repercussions of their actions - were about sending a message to kids.
"We all work hard to create a safe zone for kids in school. There is a reason that both federal and state laws prohibit sales of marijuana in school zones," said Durkan in a statement widely distributed to the local media yesterday. "We need to enforce one message for our students: drugs have no place in or near our schools."
Sensible Washington isn't buying it. Already on the record against Initiative 502 but planning its own marijuana legalization initiative for 2013 that would "repeal the civil and criminal penalties related to adult cannabis use and possession," and "remove cannabis from the state's list of controlled substances, without altering legal penalties for minors and for those driving while under the influence," according to an official release, Martinelli says yesterday's action by the feds plays right into this effort.
"Seattle has quickly become a leader in the nationwide movement to bring legitimacy to the medical cannabis industry, which the federal government has clearly grown fearsome of, as it flies straight in the face of their unyielding propaganda," says Martinelli.
"To us this plays further into the necessity for us to actually end cannabis prohibition in our state the proper way," Martinelli continues of yesterday's actions from the DEA. "We still believe strongly that to protect patient's rights we need to legalize on a state level."
And when it comes to marijuana legalization, Martinelli questions the 1000-foot restriction at the root of yesterday's action from the DEA - a restriction that's also included in I-502, which would legalize, regulate and tax pot in our state.
"It puts arbitrary restrictions on people that are trying to access and provide medication and has nothing to do with public safety," says Martinelli of the 1000-foot restriction. "There are more than 100 schools throughout the city of Seattle alone. A restriction of 1,000 feet from school zones is unnecessary, especially when considering that our state officials have refused to implement such arbitrary regulations."
In response to the DEA letters, Martinelli says Sensible Washington is considering a protest at the federal building in the next week or so. He also says Sensible Washington founder Doug Hiatt has been in contact with a handful of the medical marijuana dispensaries who have received the letters, though at this time he declined to specifically name any of them.