Spokane, Wash. - Access to medical marijuana is in limbo in Washington state as the federal government works to close all the dispensaries, including 40 stores in Spokane.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District issued a news release stating marijuana stores violate federal law and they must close right away.
"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," said U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby.
"Drug traffickers cannot hide behind the law by simply claiming they are medical marijuana stores," he said
In 1998, voters approved the use of medical marijuana in Washington without the fear of being criminally charged.
Then, in 2008 lawmakers approved a law allowing medical marijuana users a 60 day supply of no more than 24 ounces and no more that 15 plants.
But how the marijuana is bought and sold is vague and left open for interpretation.
Since 2008, nearly 40 marijuana dispensaries have popped up in Spokane County, serving several hundreds of patients everyday.
William Hall, a disabled Army veteran, buys medical marijuana at a local dispensary at least twice a week.
"I just fail to see what the problem is," Hall said. "We the people voted on it," he said.
Hall said if the dispensaries close he'll be forced to buy marijuana off the streets.
"Right now the authorities are basically turning law abiding citizens into criminals overnight- it's like prohibition and that didn't work," said Hall
Hall believes the federal government is violating his rights and said he'll do what he can to keep the stores open.
Ormsby is now asking property owners, renting space to medical marijuana dispensaries, to evict their tenants as soon as possible.
"We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law," he said.
Advocates for the medical marijuana dispensaries are hopeful House Bill 5073, which would regulate the business, will allow stores to remain open.
For up to date information on where HB 5073 currently stands go to http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5073&year=2011