As Washington voters weigh an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use this fall, and potentially strong push-back from federal authorities, a chill has settled on the local medical-marijuana industry, says the Seattle Times. Just three weeks ago, the booming local industry of medical-marijuana dispensaries celebrated at Hempfest by offering free joints to new customers and advertising heavily in four marijuana-industry publications. For a moment, Seattle’s 145 dispensaries outnumbered its 139 Starbucks locations. More sought to open each month, especially in pot-friendly Seattle.
Now, the gilt is suddenly off medical marijuana’s “green rush.” Dispensaries have closed without notice. Three former dispensary operators appear headed to federal prison. And others are leaving once-promising, if legally questionable, businesses altogether. In late August, Seattle’s office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration sent letters to the landlords or operators of 26 dispensaries, threatening property forfeiture unless the storefronts closed within 30 days. The letters targeted dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools or playgrounds, but DEA spokeswoman Jodie Underwood said relocation “will not make any of them legal.”