Drug Law

Tacoma Shutting Down Marijuana Dispensaries

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The City of Tacoma Washington has ordered eight medical marijuana dispensaries to shut their doors by Saturday. In a letter dated October 14th, Tax and License Manager, Jodie Trueblood has informed the eight dispensaries in Tacoma that the Washington State Medical Marijuana Program only allows one patient per caregiver, therefore dispensing medical marijuana to more than one person is not permitted.

Many dispensary workers and owners say they will be attending a City Council meeting today and plan to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Most of the letters arrived at the dispensaries on Friday and were received with shock and outrage. According to the letter, the business licenses of the dispensaries will be revoked, they will be subject to fine and penalties and criminal prosecution isn’t out of the question if any of the dispensaries defy the order to shut down.

Many dispensary workers and owners say they will be attending a City Council meeting today and plan to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. Philip Dawdy, the vice chairman for Sensible Washington estimates that the Tacoma dispensaries provide medical cannabis for more than 10,000 patients in the area. Washington State’s Medical Marijuana program, according to the dispensary owners, is vague enough for them to interpret the existence of the dispensaries. Washington State officials beg to differ, saying that it does not allow for the existence of dispensaries and that you can only dispense medical cannabis “to only one patient at any one time.” Providers believe that those last three words “any one time” give them permission to dispense to more than one patient, saying the officials are putting their finger over the last three words of the law when reading it.

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In the letter, dispensaries are directed to specific questions about the city’s stance to the community relations manager, Rob McNair-Huff. She said the city attorneys had thoroughly researched the law and activity before they had made their determination. McNair-Huff said it is a question of whether it’s a one-to-one or a one-to many, which, according to city attorneys is not allowed. He is unsure why it took so long for the city to make a decision on the matter. Many of the dispensaries in Tacoma have been open for at least a year.

The debate has become heated since last May when a Tacoma dispensary, “Club 420” was raided and two men arrested. Both are facing drug charges and both have pleaded not guilty. After that raid, dozens of residents and business owners spoke out to the city council expressing concern over wasting city resources just to make it more difficult for medical cannabis patients to obtain their cannabis.

Since the letter, dispensary owners have said many patients have called in a panic wondering where they should get their medical marijuana if the city shuts down their dispensary. Some patients fear going to their dispensary this week because of the possibility of a police raid. Lt. Shawn Stringer, head of Tacoma’s narcotics unit promises that his department will not target patients, but they will go after people who abuse the law and sell marijuana as a for-profit business.