Yesterday, two men were arrested in Tacoma, WA for operating a dispensary commonly known as ‘North End Club 420.’ Club 420 was not the only dispensary in the State of Washington; dispensaries have been popping up since last year. I have always been blown away that people would have the balls to open up a dispensary, when it is clearly illegal in that state. Now, before some readers get heated and think that I don’t support dispensaries, calm down, I am FOR dispensaries. However, when people get gung ho and open one up before it is legally recognized by the home state, it can come back to haunt the movement.
I know there are several readers out there that think dispensaries are legal in the State of Washington. I really hate to break it to you, but they are undeniably illegal right now. If you go to the Washington State Department of Health's website, and click on their ‘Frequently Asked Questions,’ you will see that questions ten and eleven clearly deal with this issue. Here is an excerpt taken directly from the above link:
Q: How do I get medical marijuana? Can I buy it?
A: The law allows a qualifying patient or designated provider to grow medical marijuana. It is not legal to buy or sell it.
Q: Are dispensaries legal?
A: No. The law does not allow dispensaries. The law only allows qualifying patients and designated providers to possess medical marijuana.
It doesn’t get more cut and dry then that. I have read EVERY state’s MMJ website (that has one), and while most are clueless on this issue, or don’t address it clearly, the State of Washington gets straight to the point. Most other websites say ‘contact your local municipality or an attorney for more information.’ I’m sure these two men will try to fight the charges, but in the end, their struggles will be probably be fruitless.
Club 420 opened in December. “We help patients establish safe legal grows, teach patients how to maintain their gardens, provide quality genetics, and even help provide cannabis for patients waiting to harvest,” the group wrote on its website. “We are NOT here to reap incredible financial rewards from the pain and suffering of patients and the legal disadvantages built into the current legislation. We got together because, as patients, we found we had no one to turn to for help, except one another.”
Naturally, the narcotics investigators had a different perception of Club 420. “The club appears to be making thousands of dollars in unreported tax-free income from selling drugs to persons who may not qualify and profiting from taking advantage of those who have a legitimate and authorized medical need to use marijuana,” according to a statement released by the narcotics team. According to media reports, a narc made several purchases at the club, despite not having ANY documentation. Also, the article I read stated, “The buys were conducted in ‘a manner that clearly indicates the organization is selling marijuana to multiple persons at a price which is even higher than it would cost to purchase on the street,’ according to the narcotics team.”
I don’t know if the price gouging allegations are true, but if they are, then shame on these men. The purpose of a dispensary is to HELP patients by increasing access to medicine and providing it at an affordable price. If you can get it cheaper on the street, then why in the hell would anyone ever go to a dispensary? If you look at the second link I included in this story, there is a dispensary in Spokane, WA called ‘Change.’ The dispensary opened in 2009, and is owned by Christopher Stevens, Noah Zarate, and Scotte Shupe.
The article describes a transaction between the dispensary and a patient named ‘Judy.’ The article says, “When she settled on what she wanted, Judy pulled $80 from her billfold and handed it to Stevens. He unscrewed a jar lid, fetched 5 grams of a variety called ‘Snow Cap,’ weighed it, put it in a baggie…” Did you get that — 5 grams for 80 bucks! That is practically highway robbery where I am from (and Oregon is not that far away from WA you know!). Maybe there are rookies out there that think it’s a good deal, but to a seasoned medical marijuana grower like me, that is total crap.
The standard on the Pacific Northwest streets is 80 bucks for 7 grams (even for the supers), and considering that dispensaries are supposed to make it EASIER for the patient, I would expect their prices to be BETTER than the street. However, due to greed or some other crazy logic, it sounds like patients that are unable to grow their own medicine are being taken advantage of by some dispensary owners in Washington. If you are going to open a dispensary in Washington, you should be extremely careful, because they are illegal. But IF you are going to open one (that’s a huge if), do us all a favor and charge fair prices, and don't sell to non-med patients; it gives the entire movement a black eye when you let your greed take over, and its going to prevent dispensaries from coming to WA in the future!!