Pubdate: Mon, 28 Feb 2011
Source: Federal Way Mirror (WA)
Copyright: 2011 Sound Publishing
Author: Andy Hobbs
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


City Denies Business Licenses

Federal Way has declared that two medical marijuana dispensaries are 
illegal businesses.

Conscious Care Cooperative and GAME Collective both received 
cease-and-desist letters from the city in January. The city denied a 
business license application from Conscious Care Cooperative, which 
opened in January at 29500 Pacific Highway S.

The denial is based on city code and noted that "the proposed 
business will be used for the distribution of marijuana. Marijuana 
dispensaries are illegal under state and federal law." According to 
the city, anyone operating a business without a license is guilty of 
a criminal misdemeanor and subject to civil penalties of up to $500 a day.

Conscious Care Cooperative is appealing the city's order with a 
hearing examiner March 23. GAME Collective, which opened in December 
at 33324 Pacific Highway S., has not applied for a business license, 
city officials said.

Bradley Ecklund, manager of Conscious Care Cooperative, said he wants 
to provide a place where patients can find safe access to medicine. 
The dispensary's fate hinges on the March 23 hearing along with the 
outcome of proposed state legislation, he said.

"We're not here to ruffle feathers," said Ecklund, adding that the 
dispensary complies with state laws, accepts only donations and 
screens all patients to ensure they have a valid physician's 
recommendation for medical marijuana.

"If the city has concerns, work with us," Ecklund said. He noted that 
the dispensary serves patients representing a range of ages, 
backgrounds and illnesses. "This is Washington state and this is 
what's going on."

 From a law enforcement perspective, it's not a matter of whether 
medical marijuana is right or wrong, but whether businesses comply 
with the law. In Federal Way, businesses must obtain a license and 
pay taxes. Marijuana is illegal under federal law, and the state's 
medical marijuana law from 1998 allows a designated provider to be 
the primary caregiver for one patient at a time. The two Federal Way 
dispensaries, which serve hundreds of patients, are in violation of 
these statutes and have not been approved to operate in the city, 
according to Federal Way police.

"I am very focused on reviewing and investigating the manner in which 
they're doing business, and if I can generate a criminal case, I 
will," said Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson. "If you just hang 
out in front of one of these locations in Federal Way, watch what's 
going on. They don't look like cancer patients."

The Federal Way dispensaries, both located in strip malls, have 
already attracted trouble. Conscious Care Cooperative was burglarized 
Feb. 27, and residents living near GAME Collective have complained of 
customers dealing marijuana from their cars, said Cmdr. Stan McCall.

"There's so much room for corruption in regards to this activity," 
said McCall, who is heading police investigations on the Federal Way 
dispensaries. "Our elected officials may legalize (dispensaries) down 
the road, but now they're not legal at all."

The issue of local medical marijuana dispensaries was addressed 
publicly by Mayor Skip Priest during the Jan. 4 city council meeting.

"It is the position of the city that dispensing is illegal under the 
current law and it will be treated as such," Priest said, responding 
to a citizen comment on business licenses for dispensaries.

Ongoing issues

Among bills in the Legislature, Senate Bill 5073 would amend state 
law to strengthen legal protections for qualifying patients and 
designated providers.

House Bill 1550, which recently failed to make it out of committee, 
would have paved the way for marijuana to be legalized, taxed and 
sold in state liquor stores. The Seattle Times printed an editorial 
Feb. 18 in favor of HB 1550 and legalizing marijuana in Washington. 
The editorial prompted a call from the White House Office of National 
Drug Control Policy for a meeting with the Times editorial board, 
according to The Stranger.

Sensible Washington is working on another initiative to remove all 
state penalties for marijuana for residents ages 18 and up. In 2010, 
a similar legalization measure failed to gather enough signatures to 
qualify for the general election ballot.


In 1998, Washington state voters approved a law that removed criminal 
penalties and established a defense for qualified patients who 
possess or cultivate cannabis for medicinal use.

In 2008, the "60-day" supply for patients was defined as 24 ounces 
and 15 plants; both numbers have attracted intense debate from 
medical marijuana advocates. The law allows patients to exceed these 
limits if the patient can prove medical need, according to the 
Washington State Department of Health.

Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled 
substance. Washington's medical marijuana laws help patients with a 
legal defense in local or state courts. Federal laws do not recognize 
the medical use of marijuana.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom