Pubdate: Sat, 29 Jun 2013
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2013 The Olympian
Author: Matt Batcheldor


City Refusing to Allow Oly-Dam Market's More Ambitious Plans Due to 
Lack of Permits

A downtown Olympia medical marijuana clinic had plans for bikini-clad 
"budtenders," multiple pot vendors, a smoking room and glass-blowing 
gallery before the city halted work due to a lack of building-related permits.

Those were the plans for Oly-Dam Patients Market at 215 Washington 
St. NE, across from the Olympia Transit Center, said Tom Hill, permit 
and inspection services manager for the city of Olympia. The design 
raised alarm at the city and was one reason why the Olympia City 
Council suddenly adopted a one-year moratorium on new medical 
marijuana collective gardens on May 7. On May 22, the city condemned 
the clinic and banned anyone from entering the building.

Hill said the city didn't object to the plans for marijuana vending.

"The notice of violation on this particular structure is really not 
about the collective garden," he said. "It is about the fact that 
they're creating the performance type of space and that they were 
building it without permits."

Oly-Dam owner Louis Johnson said he was making an effort to get the 
proper permits, and should have been allowed to continue selling pot 
in the business's front end, which had been home to an earlier dispensary.

"I'm willing to get the permits, but you (the city) won't allow me to 
get into the building," said Johnson, who also owns Urban Medicinals, 
a dispensary on Legion Way.

Hill said Johnson's plans require a professional architect or 
designer and that the city would grant them access to the building.

Johnson said that Oly-Dam was a place where third-party vendors would 
rent space and give marijuana to people based on donations. He said 
it's legal and "not dirty or wrong."

The smoking room was intended so people could try out the product 
without leaving the property, he said. And the glass-blowing gallery 
is for patients to create glassware that they can use to smoke.

"What I wanted to do was just bring the community and patients 
together so people could see that we could work together," he said.

Johnson said Oly-Dam was the reason for the moratorium, because the 
city is worried the large 6,100-square-foot facility would become a 
"tourist attraction."

City Manager Steve Hall said that wasn't the sole reason, that the 
city had been pondering issuing rules for marijuana clinics dating 
back to former Mayor Doug Mah, who left office about a year and a half ago.

The clinic's troubles with the city dates back to late last year, 
when Hill said city staff noticed that work was going on in the 
building. City staff repeatedly told Oly-Dam representatives that 
they must get the proper permits before modifying the building. But 
Hill said the workers proceeded anyway, putting in walls and 
ventilation for a smoking room and the beginning of a performance 
stage and a glassblowing operation.

"They were not necessarily listening to the requests," Hill said.

In late April, city staff noticed fliers around town advertising for 
Oly-Dam, Hill said, a play on Amsterdam, the Dutch capital known for 
legal cannabis.

"Is Olympia the new AMSTERDAM?" one flier asks. Another boasts 
bikini-clad women, one of them appearing to be drawing from a long 
glass bong. It advertises that the clinic is hiring "bikini 
budtenders, 420 calendar girls, dancers and VIP concierge services." 
It said "duties include dancing at venues and for VIPs, posing for 
promotional material used in print and web promotions" and "providing 
filler footage for various ad spots as well as reality TV clips."

Hill said the dispensary intended to offer pole dancing, something 
City Manager Steve Hall repeated as one of his concerns about the 
facility. But Johnson said that was untrue; he claims the women would 
market the dispensary at events and be part of a calendar.

Hill said he heard that people in the adjacent Olympia Transit Center 
were told there would be pole dancing and that they were solicited to 
work at Oly-Dam.

Johnson said the stage was already part of the previous marijuana 
dispensary, and he enlarged it so that bands could play there.

"Look at Willie Nelson," he said, "I want to get people like that 
down to my shop."

The clinic opened April 20, Johnson said, claiming that Hill said it 
was OK to open as long as the back room, where work was underway, was 
blocked off. (April 20 has become a counterculture holiday for some 
marijuana consumers, and 4/20 is code for cannabis use.) He said he 
had as many as six vendors.

In an interview, Hill said he gave Johnson permission to show vendors 
the space, not to open the marijuana-dispensing operation.

On April 25, the city sent the clinic a formal notice of violation, 
forbidding any further work and giving it until May 2 to get the 
proper permits. That didn't happen. On May 22, the city condemned the 
building and said it could not be occupied for any use without 
approval from Hill.

City officials haven't been allowed in the building on recent visits, 
Hill said. The next step, he said, is to start issuing citations. The 
first is about $100, the second more than $200 and the third is up to 
$500, he said. After that, the city can take the case to Thurston 
Superior Court.

Johnson said he wants a citation so he can bring the case to court, 
and is deliberately removing "Do Not Enter" notices so that he will 
get a citation. But he said the city just keeps putting up more 
notices, and he doesn't have the money to sue the city.

Olympia's marijuana moratorium bans any new facilities from selling, 
growing, distribution or processing of marijuana. City staff pushed 
for the measure because they said they need time to write zoning laws 
for marijuana facilities in light of a citizen measure approving 
recreational pot last year.

In a move that appears to be targeted at facilities like Oly-Dam, the 
moratorium prevents existing medical marijuana gardens from opening 
connected establishments, such as performance spaces, private clubs, 
nightclubs, taverns or similar establishments.

"The city did this strictly with my building in mind, because 
everything that you read in there has to do (with) what I have in my 
shop, in my building," Johnson said.

Olympia has at least eight medical marijuana establishments that were 
in place before the moratorium, Hall said, which can continue to 
operate. Oly-Dam is not one of them, Hill said, because it did not 
have the proper permits.

But Johnson said the moratorium shouldn't apply to him because he was 
operating the pot vending section starting April 20, before the 
moratorium. Hill maintains he was not authorized to open then.

Johnson said the city is trying to "squeeze" him.

"They know I don't got the money," Johnson said. "I'm running out of 
time to try to keep it alive, and they know if it closes down, then 
it's not grandfathered-in no more."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom