Pubdate: Wed, 28 Dec 2011
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2011 The Olympian
Author: Jeremy Pawloski, Staff Writer


Appeal: Attorneys for Dispensary Denied License Say Public Safety
Hazard Not Proven

Lawyers for Lacey Cross -- a store on Pacific Avenue that sells
medicinal marijuana -- have filed an appeal in Thurston County Superior
Court seeking to overturn the city's denial of its business license

The land-use petition filed by Seattle attorneys Charles Moure and
Hilary Bricken states that the Lacey City Council erred during a Dec.
1 hearing when it upheld a land-use hearing examiner's denial of Lacey
Cross's application for a business license.

The appeal takes aim at Lacey police officers' contention that
allowing Lacey Cross to operate with a business license would
constitute a public safety hazard. Bricken said in a phone interview
Tuesday that during Lacey police officers' testimony to the city, they
did not make their case.

"It has to be justifiable evidence that it poses a public safety
hazard, which it has certainly failed to do," Bricken said.

The appeal also alleges that the city relied upon an "arbitrary and
erroneous" interpretation of both the Federal Controlled Substances
Act and Washington medical cannabis laws in arriving at its decision
to deny Lacey Cross a business license.

State law provides for "collective gardens for the purpose of
producing, processing, transporting and delivering cannabis for
medical use," under a number of conditions, including limits on how
many patients may participate at a time and how much marijuana a
collective garden may produce. Lacey Cross and other Thurston County
medicinal marijuana establishments argue that they are protected under
the collective gardens provisions of the state's medicinal cannabis

However, law enforcement officials say there is no provision under
Washington law that legalizes the sale of marijuana to anyone,
including medicinal marijuana patients. They also argue that under
federal law, possessing or selling marijuana is illegal.

Lacey Cross is one of five so-called medicinal marijuana dispensaries
that were shut down Nov. 15 during raids by the Thurston County
Narcotics Task Force, with assistance from the Drug Enforcement

Although police made 17 arrests at the five dispensaries, including
several at Lacey Cross, no one has been formally charged.

Attorneys for Lacey Cross have said that the appeal of the Lacey City
Council's business license denial places a stay on the proceedings,
allowing it to remain open without a business license. Lacey Cross was
open for business Tuesday morning.

But Lacey Police Lt. Phil Comstock said there is nothing in the city's
municipal code that would allow for a stay in proceedings until Lacey
Cross' appeal is heard in Superior Court. He added that Lacey Cross or
any other medicinal marijuana store operating without a business
license is subject to a misdemeanor citation.

Comstock declined to comment on what, if any, actions police might
undertake to close Lacey Cross or other medicinal marijuana
establishments in Lacey.

Lacey Cross' new owner, Casey Lee, 36, said Tuesday that his business
was warned by police to close after the city upheld the denial of its
business license on Dec. 1. He said the store stopped selling medical
cannabis after the police warning, but remained open to offer advice
and counseling to medicinal cannabis patients.

He confirmed that Lacey Cross had reopened as of Dec. 27, under the
legal argument that his attorneys' appeal placed a stay on the denial
of his business license.

"We're trying to (do) everything right and follow all the rules," Lee

It is unclear what impact having or not having a business license has
on any of the medicinal marijuana establishments' practical ability to
remain open in Thurston County.

A downtown Olympia medicinal marijuana store, The Healing Center at
316 Capitol Way, does not have a business license, according to city
officials, and it reopened the day after the Nov. 15 raid at its premises.

Another Lacey medicinal marijuana store, Cannabis Outreach Services at
5709 Lacey Blvd., had its temporary business license revoked over the
summer, and it also has remained open in the aftermath of the Nov. 15
raids, according to its proprietor.

Another Thurston County medicinal marijuana establishment that was
closed during the Nov. 15 raids, The Olympia Patient Resource Center
at 420 Steele St., has remained closed.

Employees at the fifth establishment that was closed during the raids,
Triple D's at 21530 Old Highway 99 in Rochester, could not be reached
for comment Tuesday.

Law enforcement officials in Thurston County, including Prosecuting
Attorney Jon Tunheim, have said that the any establishment that sells
marijuana, even if it's being sold to a medical cannabis user in
possession of a valid green card from a doctor, is breaking the law.

Tunheim has said that it's his understanding that criminal charges
will be filed in connection with the narcotics task force's
investigation that led to the Nov. 15 raids in Thurston County. Capt.
Dave Johnson of the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force has said that
he would not comment on whether there are any pending law enforcement
investigations of the medicinal marijuana establishments in Thurston
County that remain open for business.

Lacey Cross is the only one of the five Thurston County medicinal
marijuana establishments closed during the Nov. 15 raids that was
subject to a federal search warrant, filed in U.S. District Court in
Tacoma. In a news release, the U.S. Attorney's Office states that its
participation in the Nov. 15 raids across Western Washington targeted
"commercial enterprises that purport to operate as 'medical' marijuana
establishments but also fail to comply with applicable state law."

The unsealed federal search warrant affidavit for Lacey Cross stated
that undercover detectives with the Thurston County Narcotics Task
Force "made numerous controlled buys" of marijuana from Lacey Cross
during its investigation.

The affidavit also states that narcotics detectives monitored a
Facebook page of one of Lacey Cross' proprietors, which was not set to
private. A photo on the suspect's Facebook page showed three duffel
bags full of cash, and underneath the photo, a caption read, "This
gonna take all night to (Laugh Out Loud)," according to the
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