News and Press Releases

“MARIJUANA STORES VIOLATE FEDERAL LAW”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 06, 2011

Spokane – Today, Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that he has notified landlords that marijuana stores are illegal and warned them of the penalties they may face. Marijuana continues to be prohibited by federal law and specifically marijuana stores are subject to enforcement action and stringent federal penalties. Under federal law, the possession or distribution of marijuana remains illegal, despite state law.

In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration thoroughly analyzed the relevant medical, scientific, and abuse data and concluded that marijuana continues to meet the criteria for placement in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The Food and Drug Administration reiterated this determination in April 2006, stating in a news release:

Marijuana is listed in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the most restrictive schedule. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which administers the CSA, continues to support that placement and FDA concurred because marijuana met the three criteria for placement in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1) (e.g., marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision). Furthermore, there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful. A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use. There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana.

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FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease indication.

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Accordingly, FDA, as the federal agency responsible for reviewing the safety and efficacy of drugs, DEA as the federal agency charged with enforcing the CSA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as the federal coordinator of drug control policy, do not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy supports multi-faceted prevention and treatment programs and firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana and all illegal drug use.

The voters approved a ballot initiative in 1998, which removed the state-level criminal penalties for physician prescribed marijuana. In November 2008, the state adopted a rule that authorized a 60 day supply of no more than 24 ounces and no more than 15 plants of marijuana. “The proliferation of marijuana stores, which are not authorized under state law, suggests that drug traffickers are attempting to avoid application of state law through the use of these stores,” U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby stated. “Drug traffickers cannot hide behind the law by simply claiming they are medical marijuana stores,” said Mr. Ormsby. According to information gathered by drug enforcement authorities, there are currently over 40 stores in Spokane County alone, more than any other county in the State. Many of these stores are located close to schools, parks, and playgrounds where children are often present. “Additionally, many of these stores are conducting a high volume, high dollar business, far from the allegations of the operators that they are furnishing marijuana to “patients” with debilitating medical conditions,” added Mr. Ormsby.

“Our goal is to first seek voluntary compliance with the law by notifying property owners of the non-conforming use of their property, with the expectation that they take appropriate action. If they do not, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine the appropriate law enforcement response, which could include the forfeiture of the property used to facilitate the crimes,” said Mr. Ormsby.

There are two targets to our enforcement action; the operators of the stores and the owners of the real property where the stores operate. The property owners have been notified of the penalties associated with renting property to those operating the stores, as they may be unaware of the ramifications of such action. Mr. Ormsby said he hopes that notice to the landlords will lead to voluntary compliance and eviction of those illegally distributing marijuana.

On the other hand, “we are preparing for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” Mr. Ormsby said. “We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law.”

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