Just as it was before the events of the last legislative session, Tacoma is the flashpoint for the fight between those working to create access points for medical marijuana patients and the anti-drug establishment trying to turn back the clock. The News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader, who is – unlike his paper’s editorial board – both competent and sane, provides the latest news:
Tacoma’s push to shut down more than 30 medical-marijuana sellers inched forward Monday, even as outlets in unincorporated Pierce County 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 notify them about the county’s interpretation of a state law that took effect Friday.
Businesses say the law gives them a way to keep operating, but Pastor said it puts limits on any seller wanting an “atmosphere of lots of clients and easy access.”
“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.”
I have a feeling that both Sheriff Pastor and the lunatics at the News Tribune editorial board are going to be somewhat disappointed. While the new law certainly disallows direct sales to any authorized patient who comes in off the street, individuals who want to set up a storefront and run a business will likely still be able to do so by organizing their customers into a series of different gardens and possibly even rotating them in and out of those gardens in order to conform with the law. Even without rotating them, a single person can belong to many different gardens and therefore maintain a fairly large network of patients from a single location and still stay within the letter of the law.
And in a post from Seattle Weekly today, Keegan Hamilton reports that Ed Troyer from the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office struck a far more reasonable tone when asked how aggressive they’d really be. It’s possible that over the course of the past few days, Pierce County officials are realizing that the mess created by the partial veto did little more than force dispensaries to reorganize their business models.
Of course, no one seems to have any idea what the law exactly allows. And even fewer people know what the hell the folks at the News Tribune editorial board are smoking. They see Seattle’s tolerance of these medical marijuana access points as a cover for drug trafficking, but that makes absolutely no sense. By having them operate above ground, it’s far easier to ensure that they’re not selling to unauthorized people. In Tacoma, on the other hand, if city and county officials are successful at putting those who want to play by the rules out of business, the drug traffickers win. It’s nothing short of amazing that the city’s main newspaper can’t figure that out.
The bigger potential problem here, however, is that with medical marijuana still illegal under federal law, there’s a genuine concern that overzealous local officials could invite in federal enforcement to take down even the providers who follow state law. And Tacoma voters will provide a good gauge of how popular such a move would be when they vote in November to make marijuana law enforcement the city’s lowest priority.