|Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~|
|Pre-rolled joints at Rainier Wellness Center in Tacoma, one of the dispensaries targeted by the city for shutdown|
Tacoma, Washington’s push to shutter more than 30 medical marijuana dispensaries inched forward on Monday, as cannabis outlets in unincorporated Pierce County also received letters from the Sheriff’s Department putting them on notice.
Sheriff Paul Pastor said his office sent letters to about 15 dispensaries late last week to tell them about the county’s interpretation of a state law that took effect Friday, reports Jordan Schrader at the Tacoma News Tribune. The law is what remains of SB 5073, which would have legalized dispensaries in the state but was instead gutted by a line-item veto from hen-hearted Governor Christine Gregoire.
Dispensaries say the new law gives them a way to keep operating, but Sheriff Pastor (make your mind up, man, which are you, ha ha) said it puts limits on any seller wanting an “atmosphere of lots of clients and easy access.”
|Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~|
|Budtender Amy B at Rainier Wellness Center in Tacoma|
”They’re allowed as long as they conform to the law,” Pastor said. “It’s my understanding that would strongly limit what they were able to do.”
Pastor said the letter invited businesses to come forward if they disagree with the county’s interpretation.
At least one dispensary — the Green Collar Club on Pacific Avenue South — has done so. Its attorney, May Berneberg, on Monday told Pastor’s office that his client and other dispensaries have shifted to become “collective gardens” allowed under the new law.
Berneberg wondered whether the notifications were “a prelude to a raid,” but said “He’s got no grounds to take any sort of action.”
Meanwhile, in Tacoma, city officials continued pushing to revoke the business licenses of dozens of dispensaries at a procedural hearing on Monday.
Attorneys for both sides say it could be from two to six months before decisions are made in the cases, which could then lead to more appeals.
Dispensaries hope that will give the Tacoma City Council time to set local regulations allowing the businesses to operate under a collective garden model, as Seattle is doing.
“I’m hopeful that during that time the city can clarify whether a collective garden requires a business license,” attorney Kent Underwood said during a phone-in hearing.
Underwood represents Rainier Wellness Center, The Herbal Gardens, Sacred Plant Medicine and T-Town Alternative Medicine, all targeted by the city fur shutdown.
City Council members plan to look at the issue at a committee meeting on Thursday, but some have said they’re at a loss on how to handle the new state law.
The state’s medical marijuana law is being widely described as “a mess” after Gov. Gregoire’s line-item veto of most of the legislation intended to clear up the haze. The new law now erases one legal rationale formerly used by dispensaries, but it also creates the concept of 10-patient gardens with up to 45 plants.
Dozens are dispensaries are now reinventing themselves as collective gardens with rotating memberships made up of customers in a store at any given time.
On Monday, Hearing Examiner Rodney Kerslake agreed to give the city and the businesses a month to argue over what evidence will be presented in the case.