A medical marijuana dispensary is now operating in Spokane:
After years of buying marijuana illegally, Judy now has a doctor’s note that says marijuana is a proper medication to ease her pain.
She buys her supply from a shop called Change. It opened two months ago and is run by Christopher Stevens, Noah Zarate and Scott Shupe.
People smoke and buy marijuana at the Northwest Boulevard store, and police know about it. The owners wrote a letter to Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick about their business; her reply stated that her officers are committed to enforcing local, state and federal laws.
Stevens, a candidate for Spokane City Council, took her reply to mean police would not interfere with the business.
I hope Stevens is correct and that the police will leave them alone. Unfortunately, that may not be the case.
Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor John Grasso handles most medical marijuana-related crimes. Police often consult him before pursuing a case, he said.
Grasso thinks dispensaries operating in Spokane, including Change, on Northwest Boulevard, are illegal because they provide marijuana to more than one person.
But it will take a police investigation to trigger prosecution, he said.
The factors in this equation haven’t changed. Either patients are going to spend their money in a safe environment with their money going towards local entrepreneurs and the local tax base or they’re going to spend their money on the black market with their money going towards organized crime groups – usually from Mexico – who have the resources to set up massive farms throughout the state and are willing to shoot it out with the police if necessary to protect their profits.
Spokane police appear to be doing the smart thing for now and looking the other way. These things sometimes change very quickly and unexpectedly though. The risk of opening up an actual dispensary in the state has been great enough that not even Seattle has any operating out in the open yet. As a result, authorized patients either grow for themselves or find someone to grow for them. Robbers or overzealous police actions sometimes wipe out a patient’s supply for weeks or even months.
Allowing and regulating dispensaries like Change is the solution to this problem. The Obama Administration opened the door for doing this by saying that they wouldn’t interfere with state dispensary laws. Three states now allow them – California, New Mexico, and Rhode Island (Rhode Island’s House recently overrode the Governor’s veto with a unanimous vote). For Olympia to leave dispensaries like Change operating in semi-legal limbo is just another failure in a long line of legislative failures on this issue.
UPDATE: A Seattle-based dispensary operator will be interviewed on KUOW today at noon.