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Originally published Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 7:19 PM

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US attorney warns landlords against pot shops

The U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington has warned landlords that they could face forfeiture of their properties if they rent to medical marijuana shops.

Associated Press

YAKIMA, Wash. —

The U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington has warned landlords that they could face forfeiture of their properties if they rent to medical marijuana shops.

U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby also said in a statement Wednesday that his office is preparing for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores, noting that federal law prohibits marijuana use and marijuana stores are subject to enforcement action.

"We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law."

The owners of several shops in the Spokane area either did not return telephone messages seeking comment or declined to comment on the advice of attorneys.

About 40 medical marijuana shops operate in Spokane County. Police have shut down some there, but elsewhere in the state, authorities have allowed shops to operate.

Ormsby said many of the Spokane County 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," he said.

Ormsby said he hopes that notice to the landlords will lead to voluntary compliance and eviction.

If the state wants to establish a distance requirement for shops located near schools and other entities, fair enough, said Philip Dawdy, media and policy director for the Washington Cannabis Association.

"We want everybody to have some well-defined limits that they can observe," he said. "This is butting into a fairly well-known state law that was passed by the voters."

Washington voters approved the medical marijuana law in 1998. Activists and police alike have complained that it's vague, making no provision for how patients would obtain the marijuana, other than to allow them to grow a small amount.

Commercial dispensaries have opened throughout the state. Enforcement has varied by locale.

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