In Tacoma, Washington

Warning: I feel a rambling rant coming.

Medicinal cannabis dispensaries are not legal in Washington State, yet they exist. There are persons that claim certain parts of the law are vague and or ambiguous and operate their business’ under that premise. There are cities and counties in Washington that appear to agree. And then there are those that don’t.

The city of Tacoma had issued business licenses to eight such outfits. According to the city’s tax and license manager there had been odor and traffic complaints about some of them. The city, upon advice from their attorney, sent cease and desist letters to all eight.

The proverbial shit hit the fan with the local medicinal cannabis population. The city council had a meeting last Tuesday. At that meeting the council recommended the businesses appeal the cease and desist orders and the city would wait until the legislature clarifies the law before they took any action, if at all.

I believe the city played that nicely.

They are off the hook for the dispensaries. They’ve put the turd in the law maker’s pocket. This doesn’t mean that other law enforcement agencies won’t kick in the store’s doors but, that won’t be Tacoma’s problem. At this point they are hands off.

That vague portion of the law? Well, here’s the whole revised code if you would care to look:

If not I’ll quote you that portion; “Designated provider” means a person who:(d) Is the designated provider to only one patient at any one time.”

So how many patients can a provider have, oh, say, in one day… one at a time? That’s the portion of the law one owner operator refered to when he said, “I knew at some point this would be a huge political fight The Legislature wrote a bad law. I’m a creative guy, and I drove a truck through it. But I haven’t broken the law.”

What a macaroon.

For me, the intent of the law is blatantly clear. A provision had been made for someone too sick to grow their own to have another person do so for them. It was a compassionate effort. I have no doubt it was not drafted to open up a new market plan. That doesn’t mean I agree with the law. It just means that as far as the law goes I think these people are operating illegally.

That’s too bad. You see, that whole designated provider thing hasn’t quite worked out as it was planned. I suppose it was kind of figured that if Aunt Gerty couldn’t garden any longer then maybe cousin Timmy would help her out. Well, Timmy doesn’t want to run across town every day and he lives in an apartment… It just hasn’t really worked out well. There are a lot of patients with doctor’s recommendations that haven’t any resources to acquire cannabis.

Yes, I think cannabis dispensaries have a place. There are issues though. The biggest, in my opinion, is the pricing. Cannabis at a dispensary costs as much, if not more than, cannabis on the black-market. I haven’t bought any for years but I think that runs anywhere from $200.00 to $350.00 an ounce. I know (for a fact) that the overhead to produce an ounce is $10.00 to $15.00. But this too, gets all smudged in practice.

For starters, a lot of the folks using cannabis for ailments are disabled and on a real tight budget. On one hand the pricing is currently exorbitant but on the other, if an ounce could be had for 100 bones and then turned on the street, well, it could mean the difference between a tuna sandwich for dinner and a salmon steak. I suppose I might not have any business even mentioning that aspect. People make their own decisions. It’s not my place…

The other is gouging by the business owners. Oh, I know the wages need be paid. The inventory secured. There’s all of the rest of the overhead. I don’t begrudge a person making a decent living. The pharmacist at your local market is there to make a wage and have a few bones put away for a comfortable retirement. There damn sure aint nothin’ wrong with that. We’d all like that, wouldn’t we?

So where’s the line. Where between that $15 and $350. And what the hell does all of this mean to Aunt Gerty?

I do know this, if we would just quit screwing around and pull cannabis from a scheduled substance I would have 2\3 less to write about. You and I both know that would be a good thing.



  1. gepr said,

    October 21, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    “For me, the intent of the law is blatantly clear. A provision had been made for someone too sick to grow their own to have another person do so for them. It was a compassionate effort. I have no doubt it was not drafted to open up a new market plan. That doesn’t mean I agree with the law. It just means that as far as the law goes I think these people are operating illegally.”

    That seems like the natural inference of the intent of the law. But laws are not struck down or held up purely based on the intent of the authors. If that were the case, we should be in great fear for the US Constitution and judicial precedent would be moot.

    We have a similar situation in Oregon with the recent DoJ interpretation of the homebrewing law, which states: “… the Liquor Control Act does not apply to the making or keeping of naturally fermented wines and fruit juices or beer in the home, for home consumption and not for sale.” The DoJ ruled that we can’t consume it at parks in contests. And many chicken-little homebrewers are now afraid to take their homebrew over to their friends houses, as well. Of course, we’ve been carrying our homebrew to our friends houses for decades and we’ve held contests in parks and other places for decades, all sanctioned by the DoJ and the OLCC. Were we breaking the law?

    I subscribe to the position that a piece of legislation is NOT law until/unless it’s tested in court. So, I don’t think the “designated providers” in WA are breaking the law or operating illegally, yet. They are merely hunting for an opportunity to transform the legislation into law by testing it in court. We all pity our unlucky fellows who get hauled into court. But those that do get hauled in (and hopefully assisted by the ACLU, EFF, or other freedom fighter orgs) are “rule of law” heroes to a large extent. (Though even I find it hard to call the Westboro Baptists “heroes” of any sort, despite their contribution.)

  2. capndrift said,

    October 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I’m hip to “civil disobedience” Though drug charges are probably a bit beyond civil disobedience. Also, in this particular instance I question whether a flagrant nose thumbing is the proper course.

    I regularly trade links to news stories and opinions with an acquaintance of mine. It was only a week or so ago he sent me a link about a fella in Port Angeles that’s opening a dispensary. The article read that he had the town’s, and local constabulary’s blessing. I tried to bet my buddy that he’d be busted within two months. My friend wouldn’t take the bet. He opined that it didn’t matter. Dude, my friend, me or the Dalai Lama (his words) had to make the sacrifice. Maybe I just prefer the safety of being a “keyboard activist” but, this is one of those instances where our opinions differed.

    I understand that some recommended patients haven’t any resource to procure their medicine, other than the black-market. I understand that is not what the voters had in mind when they passed initiative 692 back in ’98 (Wow! Now I’m interpreting law and reading minds! Having a blog is fun!). The crux of the thing is, state medicinal allowance or not, cannabis is still a schedule I substance. Medicinal cannabis is illegal in Washington. What the law states is that if an individual has crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s then they have an an “affirmative defense” in the event of arrest and prosecution.

    That said, if I, as an individual holding a doctor’s recommendation, hand another individual, holding a doctor’s recommendation, any plant material what-so-ever then I have just committed the crime of distribution, delivery, or whatever the prosecution wants to pursue.

    Thus, you’ve individuals willing to lay their flesh upon the cutting board. And for that sacrifice they ask the price.

    Why can’t I just give (and I wrote “give”) another recommended individual enough cannabis to get them through their next harvest? Why can’t I help out when someone’s grow crashes? Why can’t I give someone a clipping from a strain that helps me with the same malady as they?

    I suppose the obvious answer is because I’m a chicken shit and don’t want to put any flesh on the table.

    The not so obvious question could be, why are we carrying on about dispensaries when the root of the law is rotten? The law as it implies to compassionate assistance rather than store fronts.

    I’m headed over to Aunt Gerty’s. Don’t tell, okay?

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