An unlicensed Vashon medical marijuana shop is still operating on the island’s main highway more than a month after dispensaries without proper licensing were closed across the state.
Island Cure, on the south end of Vashon in the 17900 block of Vashon Highway SW, has been operating past July 1, which was the deadline for folding Washington’s medical marijuana market into the state’s tightly regulated retail cannabis system.
A bright neon “open” sign above a three-foot-high green cross marks the building. Two other signs advertised the business along the street. A search Wednesday for licensed retail marijuana shop locations on the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Board website showed only one unused, non-activated license for a different business on the island.
Island Cure owner Kevin Bergin’s reason for staying open is simple. “Nobody told me to shut it down,” Bergin said Tuesday. He said he never received any letters or verbal instructions to stop running his business. “Then when I asked a cop two days before (July 1), he goes ‘What for?’ ” Bergin said. King County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Cindi West said it wasn’t her department’s responsibility to initiate enforcement. “We might enforce a grow operation at a house, but not in a business,” she said. The situation would be different in Pierce County. “We would work the case, serve a search warrant and send the case to the prosecutor,” Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board works only with licensed marijuana shops. Because Bergin’s operation is unlicensed, it’s not their responsibility, said department spokesman Brian Smith. However, agents from LCB would accompany law enforcement on a dispensary shutdown if requested. “We would offer our assistance if needed,” Smith said. “We have the authorization to seize all the products,” after first verifying the store is not licensed and its products are not in the registered supply chain.
The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is looking into Island Cure’s situation. Spokesman Dan Donohoe said Wednesday that his office has closed more than 15 stores in unincorporated King County through the threat of civil action. “That is something we could pursue with any other unlicensed stores,” Donohoe said.
The situation has been different in other counties. On July 25, the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force seized marijuana, edibles, candies, creams and growing marijuana plants from Sonshine Organics Network in Olympia. Joe Hyer, a spokesman for Sonshine, said that dispensaries should have been given 90 days to shut down after July 1. That would have given time for businesses and patients to better transition to medically endorsed recreational stores with a more complete product selection for patients. “Those dispensaries that bled down their inventory before July 1 were doing a disservice to their patients,” Hyer said. He supports Island Cure’s continued operation.
Pierce County sheriff’s deputies shut down an unlicensed marijuana dispensary July 6 that had continued to operate in close proximity to the sheriff’s Parkland Spanaway detachment headquarters. Deputies served a warrant on the Green Organics store, seizing marijuana products and paraphernalia and arresting the owner on suspicion of illegal sale of marijuana and selling marijuana to a minor.
Meanwhile, Island Cure continues to sell marijuana. “There’s people out here who need it,” Bergin said.
SONshine Organics, a small family owned non-profit dispensary in Olympia Washington was raided this week with cash and products seized by the Thurston County Sheriff. No one has been arrested (yet), but the Thurston County Prosecutor will make a final decision regarding charges in the future. Sonshine stated:
“Medical MMJ patients we continue to fight for your rights! We know YOU ARE REAL PATIENTS and also FARMERS who GROW WITH LOVE ~ all organic ~ WHERE IS THE PATH?? THESE FARMERS will always have OVERAGE, they are good at what they do ~ they want to HEAL themselves and others!!!!! ~ WE NEED A PATH! A GREEN MARKET NOT a black market!!”
Congratulations State of Washington on potentially destroying a family and ruining their livelihood, all because they didn’t receive a new i502 license – which most dispensaries either couldn’t afford to apply for, were not granted because of the WSLCB’s corrupt licensing practices, or decided not to apply for because they disagreed with i502’s principles and the WSLCB’s bureaucracy. Congratulations State of Washington for forcing small family owned businesses to close. Congratulations State of Washington for harming patients who genuinely need non profitable products and cannot afford the 37% excise tax that patients are now forced to pay in order to purchase legal medicine.
Medical marijuana has been legal in the State of Washington since the late 1990s. Dispensaries have been safely growing and producing cannabis medicines for two decades while successfully self-regulating. The State of Washington has created an over-arching bureaucracy and is treating a beneficial plant like it’s plutonium, when in reality cannabis is a plant which is LESS DANGEROUS than alcohol, LESS HARMFUL than prescription drugs, and can decontaminate toxic land.
Toke Signals reports:
“Sonshine Organics, a medical marijuana collective in Olympia, Washington, was raided by county law enforcement officials on Tuesday, July 26. Sonshine owner Sarena Haskins confirmed on Facebook early Tuesday afternoon that the raid was underway. “RAIDED ~ STOLE ALL our Cash HONEY high CBD strain meds!” Haskins, who has for years been a stalwart on the Washington medical marijuana scene, posted. “WE NEED TO FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT!!! WRONG ON SO MANY LEVELS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!””
If you have a comment on today’s RAID activities feel free to comment to the Judge responsible for the warrant, Mr. Lack at 360-709-3201,” Haskins posted. “Also calls need to go to sheriff, county commissioners, LCB, all of them if possible!”
“Now going to have to tell a parent NO capsules for your son who has seizures!!???” Haskins posted. “SAD world!” Douglas Hiatt, a lawyer representing Sonshine Organics, said deputies confiscated bags full of marijuana meant for patients, reports Drew Mikkelsen at KING-5 News.
Thurston County Sheriff John Snaza claimed Sonshine was the only unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary in the county that hadn’t closed by July 1, the date the state’s dispensaries were shut down by SB 5052, which in an act of cruel irony is called the “Cannabis Patient Protection Act.”
The county prosecutor will determine if anyone will face charges, according to the sheriff’s office. A press release from the sheriff’s office reads as follows:
On today’s date, the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force executed a search warrant at 7707 Martin Way S.E., Olympia, Washington, the home of Sonshine Organics Network. This business was operating as an unlicensed Medical Marijuana Dispensary selling black market marijuana and products. These products were not produced, received or sold in compliance with current Washington State Law. On July 1, 2016, Washington State Law changed as it pertains to licensed Medical Marijuana Dispensaries allowing for the sale of Medical Marijuana only at stores licensed by the Liquor and Cannabis Board for the State of Washington. Prior to July 1, 2016, Sheriff John Snaza personally served a letter, drafted by the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office, to all known unlicensed Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Thurston County. The letter warned the dispensary operations of the new law and further that violations would not be tolerated. Detectives from the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force conducted an investigation and discovered that Sonshine Organics Network was in violation of the new law. They continued to operate without a license after receiving warnings from Sheriff Snaza and the Liquor and Cannabis Board. Upon the execution of the search warrant, detectives contacted two store employees who were cooperative. The employees were interviewed and released. As a result of the search warrants, detectives seized large quantities of marijuana to include: processed marijuana, edibles, candies, creams, and growing marijuana plants. No one has been arrested. The investigation is on-going and the case will be referred to the Thurston County Prosecutor for consideration of charges. There is nothing further at this time. Investigation continues.”
Coverage from King5 news DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS THE SHERIFF’S PRESS RELEASE which stated that:
“the Sheriff warned the dispensary to shut down on July 1st with King5 reporting that Before the July 1 deadline, Snaza told the owners he would give them time to transition out of business. Hiatt said they expected to have more time.”
A Spanaway dispensary was also raided on July 6th.
About SONshine Organics, a small family owned non-profit medical marijuana dispensary.
Unhappy about this turn of events? Please contact your state lawmakers, Governer Inslee and the Thurston County Prosecutor and Sheriff, and call Judge Lack, who signed the warrant authorizing the Sonshine raid at 360-709-3201.
SENSIBLE WASHINGTON: Lawsuits have been filed to stop Mayor Murray’s crackdown on medical cannabis in Seattle!
Lawsuits have been filed to stop Mayor Murray’s crackdown on medical cannabis in Seattle! Sensible Washington will be holding a press conference TODAY, September 30, 2015 at 2:00 pm at 119 1st Ave S Suite 260, Seattle, WA 98104. If you can attend, please show up to support! SaveWAMMJ will be there.
Sensible Washington reports:
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for his recent crackdown on medical cannabis!
… lawsuits against the state are currently in the works!
More information from the JointBlog: Firms File Multiple Complaints Against Seattle Mayor to Protect Cannabis Patient’s Rights
Four attorneys representing three different law firms have filed suit to stop Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s crackdown on patients and purveyors in medical cannabis. They will be holding a joint press conference on September 30, 2015 at 2:00 pm at 119 1st Ave S Suite 260, Seattle, WA 98104.
Mayor Murray recently forced an Ordinance through the city council. Nick Lacata, who is not seeking reelection, introduced the Ordinance; the brain child of David Mendoza, the mayor’s cannabis czar. The Ordinance is the Mayor’s attempt to shutter at least 58 businesses within a month, without regard to patient access, or dispensary owners’ ability to properly conclude their business affairs.
The Ordinance threatens referral to law enforcement agencies. It effectively overrides a 2003 Ordinance, passed by the voters rather than city council, which ordered the both the city attorney and Seattle Police Department to completely deprioritize cannabis enforcement. The Ordinance further threatens fines in excess of a $1,000 per day against purveyors who continue to serve their patients.
The City began enforcement efforts in earnest, conducting sting operations throughout late August. The city now intends to begin assessing penalties and potential criminal actions immediately, based on its clandestine efforts.
The legal theories challenging the Mayor’s crackdown are numerous, as the Mayor’s Ordinance uses several questionable mechanisms. Attorneys Douglas Hiatt, Aaron Pelley and Jeff Steinborn, have joined forces to fight the City’s Ordinances and will argue the city has no authority to conduct the current crackdown.
Mr. Sean Badgley and several members of his team at C3 Law Group PLLC, intend to argue the city in effect lied to the dispensary owners when it issued business licenses in 2015, thereby encouraging patients and businesses alike to believe the mayor took patient access seriously. The attorneys will ask a court to order the city to cease its crackdown in injunction hearings set as soon as possible..
C3 Law Group PLLC is a law firm dedicated to the legitimate cannabis industry. It advocates for a free and fair cannabis market, and routinely represents clients against the state and local governments. – TheJointBlog
Lots of press being generated this week with the news that the Squaxin & Suquamish tribes are planing to to sell marijuana. TAX FREE marijuana sold via indian reservations is a very real possibility in our state’s future. Will this be the path that medical patients take to obtain their medicine without unfair taxation? Time will tell!
NEWS TRIBUNE REPORTS: Squaxin, Suquamish tribes working on plans to sell marijuana
A building nearing completion across the street from Little Creek Casino and Resort is a bet that marijuana will be the next booming business on Indian reservations. If all goes as planned, the site between Shelton and Olympia will be a store where the Squaxin Island Tribe will sell the drug. A hands-off federal policy on pot sales in Indian Country, announced in December by the Obama administration, has generated a lot of interest but few takers so far. Now at least two Washington tribes want to join the newly legal industry. The Suquamish Tribe in northern Kitsap County could be the first, with the state Liquor and Cannabis Board due to vote on a proposed agreement Monday. The Squaxin could follow close behind. Both governments have been negotiating with Gov. Jay Inslee’s office to hammer out tribal compacts.
“I have led the tribe’s efforts to fight drug abuse on the Squaxin Reservation, and I arrive at my support for this new approach only after long deliberation,” Squaxin tribal Chairman David Lopeman wrote Inslee. “But I recognize that continuing as an island of prohibition while surrounded by jurisdictions that allow the sale and consumption of marijuana is unworkable.”
The tribes have decriminalized marijuana in certain circumstances and now want to regulate and control the drug, according to drafts of the compacts under negotiation. The News Tribune and The Olympian obtained the drafts through a public-records request. The draft language would let the two tribes buy tested, packaged and labeled pot from the more than 900 holders of state licenses, then sell it to anyone 21 and older.
Unlike at private stores, the state wouldn’t get a cut. A law passed by the Legislature this year setting up the process for marijuana compacts called for tribes to instead charge their own taxes, equal or greater to the state’s hefty rate of 37 percent plus sales tax. That’s in deference to federal statute that limits state taxes on commerce taking place on reservations, said Rep. Chris Hurst, an Enumclaw Democrat and the sponsor of the new state law. Though not required by the law, the proposed compacts call for the tribes to use all tax revenues for government services and to pay for audits showing they complied with that mandate.
But the law and the draft compacts allow for some exceptions in which pot could potentially be sold tax-free.
One is for sales to members of the tribes. Another is for marijuana grown or processed on a reservation, making it possible that even non-tribal customers could find better prices at tribal stores than are available off reservations.
The draft language allows the two tribes to grow and process the drug. The Suquamish said in a previous proposal that they had no plans to become growers and processors, and Squaxin Island Tribal Council member Jim Peters said it’s a future possibility for his tribe, but the plan for now is to buy from state-licensed growers.
The reason for the exceptions, Hurst said: State government doesn’t have the power to control operations taking place entirely on Indian reservations. “How the tribes conduct their own business really is their own business, because they are sovereign governments,” he said.
Hurst said tribes could go into the marijuana business without signing compacts, but that both lawmakers and tribes agreed a uniform system would be better for public safety. Under the proposed compacts, tribes could have their own systems to track pot in transactions taking place entirely within or between reservations, but would have to show records to the board. State enforcement officers could do checks and stings at the tribal stores — with advance notice to the tribe, whose police would be expected to participate in the enforcement.
Opponents of legalization have focused on the consequences for heavy users and children who might get their hands on pot despite the heavy regulations. Peters said the Squaxin Island Tribe plans to provide kids with information in school programs and that the tribe has a drug and alcohol treatment center in Elma that is available to help treat addictions.
The tribe aims to diversify the reservation’s economy, while treating marijuana like alcohol or tobacco, Peters said. “We’re not going to advertise for people to get into it,” he said, “but if you are into it, we have a product for you.”
WSLCB PRESS RELEASE: Liquor and Cannabis Board and Suquamish Tribe Sign Marijuana Compact
Historic agreement is nation’s first
OLYMPIA – The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (Board) and the Suquamish Tribe today signed the nation’s first state-tribal marijuana compact. The compact governs the production, processing, purchase and sale of marijuana on the Tribe’s land. The agreement was made possible by legislation (HB 2000) enacted during the 2015 legislative session. The signed compact moves next to Gov. Jay Inslee for approval.
“We believe that working closely with the Suquamish Tribe we can ensure a well-regulated marijuana market that protects the health and safety of Washington State citizens,” said Board Chair Jane Rushford. “This agreement is an excellent model for future compacts.”
The State recognizes the Suquamish Tribe as a sovereign nation and negotiated the agreement in lieu of licensure by the Board. Per the enacting legislation, a tribal tax equivalent to the state excise tax will be applied to sales to non-tribal customers on Suquamish tribal lands.
“Our Tribe always favors a collaborative and cooperative approach,” said Suquamish Tribal Chairman Leonard Forsman.”We believe that our relationship with the State, including this compact, will best serve and protect our tribal community, surrounding neighbors, and residents of the state.”
On Aug. 29, 2013, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) issued a memorandum setting forth the eight enforcement priorities of the federal government which emphasized preventing access to marijuana by minors, preventing the criminal element from involvement in the industry and preventing diversion of product out of state. On Oct. 28, 2014, the USDOJ clarified in a memo that the same priorities should guide federal enforcement priorities in Indian Country.
Upon final signature, the compact remains in effect for ten years.
NBC NEWS Reports: (underline, corrections & emphasis added by Save WAM MMJ)
Stephen Damgaard uses medical marijuana for nerve damage in his spine, eating a small brownie made with cannabutter each morning. The weed in the butter comes from one of Seattle’s many medical dispensaries — an untaxed and illegal medical pot shop that up until now has been tolerated by authorities.
But almost everything about marijuana in Washington is about to change, as the state moves to regulate both its 17-year-old medical marijuana program and the legalization of recreational marijuana passed by voters in 2012. And critics say the changes will hurt the users of medical marijuana. Fear of higher prices, possession limits and lack of access to the specific marijuana products that high-use patients need has left medical marijuana advocacy groups fighting back against laws that both Democrat and Republican legislators see as good.
Most medical marijuana, previously untaxed and almost completely unregulated, must now be purchased in the same regulated retail stores that sell weed to recreational users. In addition to paying a 37 percent tax on purchases, medical marijuana patients face lower possession limits and tight restrictions on growing marijuana in group collectives. By July 1, 2016, the new regulations will be fully in place and medical patients will be part of the retail market.
The Cost of Weed
The recreational system took more than a year to get up and running, with the first shops opening in July 2014. There are now 154, and new users and tourists are major driving forces in growing retail sales.
But cost has been an issue since recreational marijuana was legalized in Washington. Prior to this July, when a 37 percent tax on recreational weed became effective statewide, some locales were charging taxes as high as 50 percent.
Supporters of the new laws say that having everyone participate in the same market will make prices drop in the long run. The idea that retail pot is expensive isn’t accurate now that more than a few shops are up and running, said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, who advocated for heavily for legalization and medical regulation.
“We’re seeing already, even with the limited supply, costs have just really dropped,” Holmes said. “In the last 12 months, prices are probably 50 percent of what they were before. With that kind of movement and that kind of price sensitivity, the legal market is going to beat the illegal market in the marketplace.”
But medical growers estimate the cheapest medical marijuana is selling for between $125 and $140 an ounce, while the cheapest ounces available at Uncle Ike’s and Ocean Greens — two of Seattle’s most popular retail stores — are around $190. For a patient like Damgaard, who said he uses three ounces a week, the price difference can add up.
I’m on a fixed income,” Damgaard said. “I can only afford a little bit.”
The Wild West
When medical marijuana was first legalized in Washington in 1998, there wasn’t much to it. Some of the states that legalized later included rulemaking guidelines or regulations in their medical marijuana initiatives. Washington’s ballot initiative only dealt with the basics. For example, a patient needed only a doctor’s recommendation to obtain medical marijuana.
“[Medical marijuana legalization] created an affirmative defense for a patient or designated provider who is authorized by their healthcare provider to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana,” said Kristi Weeks of the Department of Health. “That’s all it created.”
That means that a medical marijuana patient could be arrested for possession, but could use medical authorization as a legal defense at trial.
While the health department would later define a 60-day supply as 24 ounces of marijuana, little else was done to clarify what medical patients could and could not do.
In the absence of regulations, large medical marijuana cultivation cooperatives and dispensaries sprouted around the state. Police and prosecutors mostly tolerated them as an alternative to forcing medical patients to buy weed off the streets, Weeks said.
State lawmakers have responded by trying to cut down on illegal cultivation and sales. Under the new laws, medical patients who previously could possess 24 ounces — as long as they could prove they needed it if arrested — are now allowed three.
The three [additional] ounces are permitted only if they are willing to sign up for the state medical marijuana registry. Unregistered patients are limited to one ounce.
To Joe Mascaro, a medical marijuana patient who legally grows for a handful of friends, the possession limits are going to hurt those who need medical marijuana the most. “For you or me, three ounces seems like a lot,” Mascaro said. “For a cancer patient, they can go through it like that, easily.”
While Mascaro sees this as a state-controlled monopoly, officials see it as increased availability. “[Now] people will be able to purchase from stores, grow in cooperative grows or grow at home,” said Weeks, “so there’s no longer a need for anyone to have 24 ounces at any given moment in time.”
Holmes, the city attorney, said he doesn’t think the three-ounce limit will be enforced on its own other than in cases where a crime has been committed. “It would have to be one of those circumstances akin to lightning striking twice at the same place,” Holmes said. “Where you’re actually in possession (of more than three ounces) and having given a level of suspicion to a law enforcement officer to have them search you. … I haven’t seen it as a practical limitation.”
Growing in a group will also be more challenging for medical marijuana patients under the new regulations. The untracked, unregulated collective gardens are gone, but a way for patients to grow in small groups remains in the form of grow cooperatives.
The cooperatives are allowed a maximum of four patients — who are generally allowed to grow four plants each — but they must be registered with the state and cannot be within a mile of a marijuana store, a major challenge in places like Seattle. Some growers like Mascaro have already started to shrink their small collectives to personal grows. Some of those with big operations said they are more hesitant to downsize.
“I wish I could figure out how I could continue doing this (legally),” said one grower who feels her collective cannot be licensed because of prior arrests. “I’m not taking this risk for you to resell it, I’m doing this to heal people.”
“If they [the state] are providing what we’re providing,” she said, “if a patient can get quality, 20 [dollars]-per-gram RSO (Rick Simpson Oil, a medical marijuana extract), then I’ll quit.”
This report is part of the project titled “America’s Weed Rush,” produced by the Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative, a national investigative reporting project involving top college journalism students across the country and headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University
Press Release from the Vipers Club: “Viper’s Club Brings Attention to Secret Law Enforcement Meetings on MMJ”
To all concerned,
We are hearing from sources in Olympia that the WSLCB will be participating in daytime meetings with medical cannabis stakeholders for seven meetings during the month of November, including non-profits and law enforcement, in addition to the ones scheduled in the evenings for the public.
This is more than a little disturbing to hear, especially considering the 17 violations of the Open Public Meetings Act committed by the board found by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller as reported by the Associated Press and other major news media back in November of 2014.
The WSLCB has not shown good faith when it comes to the issue of public accountability and the patient community’s concerns have largely been ignored in the past.
It becomes even more alarming considering the aggressive nature of law enforcement against the medical community lately. Recent news coming from King County out of the White Center press conference our reporters covered shows an active role by the WSLCB, becoming more involved in medical cannabis than just age compliance checks, well before the July 2016 date when collectives are to be closed.
Since we represent the most highly affected stakeholders (chronically ill patients) of the medical cannabis rule-making, we wish to remind you of the agency’s duty to inform the public when and where they can attend those daytime meetings with law enforcement and nonprofits as required by law.
Kirk Ludden as sponsor and Executive Director of I-1372, while falling short of qualifying for the November 2015 ballot, represents the 27,707 people who signed the initiative.
We trust the WSLCB will be open, transparent and inclusive of the public in all matters going forward in this process and hope this reminder serves to underscore how much this issue will be watched by our group and others. Providing transparency with all public records and the agency rule making file is vital to serving the people’s best interests. We trust the LCB will include a public scheduling of all board meetings with the list of all daytime and evening events listed together well in advance so the public is well represented.
Chris B (Registered Volunteer Lobbyist)
Stephanie V (Registered Volunteer Lobbyist)
THE VIPER’S CLUB
CC: Washington State Representatives