Pubdate: Wed, 25 Nov 2009
Source: Federal Way Mirror (WA)
Copyright: 2009 Sound Publishing
Author: Andy Hobbs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


A local senior citizen wants to open a storefront medical marijuana
dispensary in Federal Way.

She already runs a mobile medical marijuana clinic, meeting patients
at random locations in her non-descript economy car. At one time, she
was helping nearly 300 people.

"I do make money on this, obviously, but I can't put it on my income
taxes," said the woman, who requested anonymity.

Her "business" is on a list given to patients after they receive a
doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana. She verifies each
patient's permit before selling, she said. Her youngest patient: A
17-year-old with lymphoma.

With a storefront dispensary, she can operate in the open with police
protection, she said.

Before dismissing her idea as half-baked, consider the movement that's
already in motion.

Last month, the Obama administration announced a policy that medical
marijuana users and suppliers would not be arrested as long as they
conform to state laws. This policy is seen as another step toward
reforming marijuana laws across the country.

In June, The Mirror ran a five-part series about medical marijuana's
status in Washington. Two sources from the series came out of the
woodwork following the federal announcement. One source who runs an
Eastside clinic said he's cooking up an initiative that would allow
state-licensed dispensaries and growers. If it materializes, the
initiative could serve as a master template for states without medical
marijuana rights. Another source from the series, a Federal Way
resident gifted in cultivation, wondered how the city would respond if
he opened a legal storefront clinic.

In Federal Way, it is unclear how medical marijuana dispensaries fit
within city and state zoning codes. Economic development director
Patrick Doherty said more research is needed to determine requirements
for such an untested proposal.

Nationwide, mainstream attitudes toward marijuana are changing.
Medical marijuana laws have passed in 14 states, including Washington.
Arguments against decriminalization or even full-scale legalization
often cite the medical platform as a "Trojan horse" for marijuana
dealers. Such is the case in California, where storefront marijuana
dispensaries flourish - and scoring a doctor's recommendation is as
easy as having a hangnail.

That road is rockier in Washington state. In September, Spokane police
raided and shut down one marijuana dispensary. Officials in Mountlake
Terrace rejected a recent business application for what would be the
state's first for-profit storefront dispensary, according to the
Everett Herald.

State law may offer some protection and rights for patients, but the
real debate over marijuana is aimed at people who use the drug for
recreation rather than medicine.

This month, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that a University of
Washington student has helped shift the medical ideology on cannabis. Sunil
Aggarwal wrote a 395-page Ph.D. dissertation titled "The Medical Geography
of Cannabinoid Botanicals in Washington State: Access, Delivery and
Distress." Aggarwal's groundbreaking research played a role in the American
Medical Association's recent recommendation to change the federal
classification of cannabis. As a Schedule I substance, doctors cannot
prescribe cannabis, and medical research is hindered.

"That legal classification has basically produced all these state
medical marijuana laws," Aggarwal told The Mirror last June. "I don't
need a clinical anecdote to convince me of cannabis's medical utility."

A change in legal classification, coupled with other cannabis
decriminalization efforts, could add millions of dollars to state
budgets. In 2010, Senate Bill 5615 will go before Washington state
legislators. If passed, the bill would decriminalize adult possession
from a crime to a civil infraction - and potentially save $16 million,
with $1 million in new revenue, according to the bill's sponsors. Some
of that money would go toward drug treatment and prevention services.

The nation's top cash crop already thrives in the underground economy
for both recreational and medical purposes. And it may be a while
before storefront marijuana dispensaries open in Federal Way.

Regardless, the notion of a legitimate cannabis business sounds less
extreme today than it would have 10 years ago - and more extreme than
it will 10 years from now. 
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