Recently dozens of businesses that sell recreational marijuana in Washington state have received some off-putting letters from the military. The letters state that the businesses are now considered to be off-limits to all active members of the armed forces and that they are hereby banned from purchasing cannabis products from the establishments.
The correspondence was sent out by The Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board, which is in charge of any and all disciplinary action involving military personnel in the area. The letters read that any and all military personnel will be indefinitely prohibited from entering any of the businesses unless the proprietor agrees to discontinue the sale of marijuana and other similar substances.
This came as a shock to many businesses who received the letters, leaving them unsure of how to respond or what it could mean for the future of their business.
Joe Kubistek, a spokesperson for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, located near Tacoma, claims that 86 total letters were sent to businesses that received licenses to sell recreational marijuana under the voter-approved Initiative 502. This initiative allows for licensed businesses to sell marijuana for
recreational use to anyone above the age of 21.
“Despite the passage of Initiative 502,” explains Kubistek, “the use, possession, manufacture, or distribution of marijuana remains illegal for all service members at all times and locations.”
The letters state that the businesses that received them have been given a 30 day notice to present evidence to the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board to show that they have stopped selling any and all marijuana products to military personnel.
While this seems to be fairly straightforward for the military personnel involved, it has left many dispensaries questioning what they should do next.
Shawn Sortland, owner of Clear Choice Cannabis in Tacoma, received one of these letters and was unsure about what to do about the order.
“On one hand, we want to be in compliance. But we can’t discriminate against anybody,” said Sortland.
Sortland explains that the real trouble is identifying which of his customers are actually active members of the military, especially if they come into his shop wearing civilian clothing.
Sortland has sent his copy of the letter to his attorney for further review, and is awaiting response.
Hillary Bricken, a Seattle attorney who represents two of the marijuana businesses who received these letters, explains that the shops have absolutely no responsibility to inquire about the military status of any of their customers. However, the owners are still frightened over possible repercussions of not following through with the military demand.
“The Army is totally powerless to do anything to these businesses,” Bricken explains, “but that doesn’t stop my clients from freaking out.”
Kubistek has attempted to dissuade these feelings of unease among the marijuana business owners in Washington.
“The Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board recognizes these businesses were established for the purpose of selling and distributing marijuana, within state guidelines, and had no intention of interfering with their business operations,” he wrote.
Kubistek further explains that letters similar to these are sent to other kinds of businesses that military personnel are banned from, including anything that has to do with drugs, prostitution, discriminatory practices or liquor violations. And because cannabis is still considered illegal under federal law, any store that sells cannabis or similar products will fall under this distinction.
Despite all of this, a military spokesperson has explained that the onus is on military members to know where they are off-limits from and to avoid the locations and businesses themselves.
While it seems to be clear that the military has no power to interfere with these businesses in any substantial ways, the owners of said shops are now more worried than ever about what will occur if a member of the military happens to enter their retail locations.
Are you in the military? What do you think of this rule? Tell us in the comments below.