It might be getting harder to get legally high in Washington state.
On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Administration sent letters to the owners and landlords of 23 of the state's medical marijuana businesses, stating the properties were subject to prosecution and seizure if they didn't shut down operations within the next 30 days, the Seattle Times reports.
The DEA letters state the 23 businesses had been deemed to be 1,000 feet or closer to a school "or other prohibited area," but in fact state law does not authorize dispensaries of any type.
The letter, which was obtained by the Seattle Times, states:
Please be advised that distributing, possessing with intent to distribute, or manufactruing controlled substance, or aiding and abetting such an offense violates federal law. Doing any of these activities in close proximity to an educational facility or playground, subjects the person involved to enhanced penalties.
The names of the dispensaries have not been released.
In a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's office Thursday, Jenny A. Durkan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington emphasized her commitment to keeping school zones drug free:
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. We need to enforce one message for our students: drugs have no place in or near our schools.
Federal law prohibits the sale of marijuana, but some states, including Washington, have passed their own laws allowing for the possession, growing or selling of medicinal pot.
Since 1996, when California became the first state to pass such a law, 15 other states and the District of Columbia have passed some variation on the statute. Washington's law was originally passed in 1998 and was amended in 2008 and 2010.
There are more than 140 total medical-marijuana related businesses in Seattle alone, the Seattle Times notes. Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a recent attempt to legalize and regulate the businesses, leaving that state with one of the must unregulated industries in the country, according to The Times.
Kimberly Mills, communications director for Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, told the newspaper that while the city generally keeps a hands-off approach towards dispensaries, any businesses inside school zones are fair game, and they know it.
This newest action is part of a larger crackdown on medical marijuana businesses by both local and federal authorities.
At the end of July, the mayor of Los Angeles signed a new dispensary ban, passed by the City Council, which aims to close all such facilities by Sept. 6, according to LA Weekly. Storefront sales are being targeted, although groups of three or fewer patients will still be able to legally cultivate the plant, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Yesterday, the city ratcheted up the pressure by asking federal authorities to help enforce the ban.
Patient Care Alliance Los Angeles, a trade association, has taken the city to court in an effort to vacate the law, Reuters reports. Cannabis advocates have also been pounding the LA pavement since the ban's passing in an effort to gather enough signatures to force a referendum to overturn the ordinance. If petition-gatherers can find 27,400 names in the next three weeks, the referendum would be put before voters in March, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Meanwhile, federal authorities in California have expanded a continuing crackdown on dispensaries, filing three lawsuits and sending cease and desist letters to more than 60 operations in Orange County, CBS News reports.