|Photo: Young Kwak/The Pacific Northwest Inlander|
|Ryan Seeley and Surisa Arispe outside their medical marijuana dispensary, Indicare, in Spokane, December 2010|
The owners have good reason to be concerned. Last week, a Spokane jury convicted Scott Shupe, who co-owned one of the city's first medical marijuana dispensaries, reports Tania Dall at KXLY4.
Shupe had argued that a broad interpretation of the law allows dispensaries to supply authorized patients, provided they serve only one patient at a time. But jurors decided that Washington's medical marijuana law should not be interpreted as allowing dispensaries.
Now dispensaries across Spokane are worried about their future -- if they have one.
"I don't think a lot of time has been taken to deal with this in Spokane County and that's why 50 or 60 have popped up in the county in the last two years," said Ryan Seely, who said he directs Indicare, a nonprofit dispensary.
"We're licensed with the city, with the state, with the federal government, we're an "S" corporation, we're a nonprofit here in the City of Spokane, we do have a business license, a nursery license, a resellers permit; we have every license a business has," Seely said.
After a jury found Shupe guilty of trafficking drugs, Seeley decided his dispensary would temporarily close its doors last Thursday.
"One of the big things that have come from closing our doors is my cell phone has been exploding from these calls from people wanting to know why we're not there and what they're supposed to do," Seeley told the Spokane City Council Monday night.
Almost a dozen speakers addressed the council on the issue. Many were medical marijuana dispensary operators pushing for clarification of the state's existing medical marijuana law, and asking local leaders for support.
"In Seattle or in King County, the government officials have shown their support and compassion for patients," said dispensary owner Greta Carter. "We don't have that clarity here."
Carter said after her son was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to make a $50,000 investment and open up a medical marijuana shop on Division Street in Spokane.
"I'm a business person from a very conservative background, that investigated this industry to the tune of a lot of money and a lot of time and energy before I made the decision to go forward," Carter said.
The venture has now been put on hold due to concerns with the Shupe verdict.
But Carter, along with other medical marijuana businesses, plans to continue to fight for her son and for other patients needing relief.
"I'm pushing the envelope and the hope is that there are others out there, that see the advantage too," Carter said.
A bill, SB 5073, is currently being considered in Olympia that would extend legal protections to dispensaries and provide arrest protection for patients. Washington's medical marijuana patients currently have only an "affirmative defense" against prosecution once they're arrested and hauled into court.