There’s a fine article in today’s Seattle Times on how Eastern Washington has become a virtual no-fly zone for medical cannabis since Governor Christine Gregoire’s partial veto of S. 5073 in April. The 50 or so dispensaries that were open in Spokane are now all closed or very underground and patients have been largely forced onto the black market. I’m told that prices for quality cannabis on the black market increased dramatically in the Spokane area and that dealers literally celebrated the downfall of dispensaries. Patients also have the option of driving over to Seattle and, according to the article, some are.
Of course, things are vastly different in Seattle, Tacoma and a few other jurisdictions in Western Washington. In fact, there are now claimed to be 75 collectives in Seattle alone, triple what there was in March of this year.
Other than the Governor’s veto, what’s driving matters in Eastern Washington is that the US Attorney for Eastern Washington, Michael Ormsby, really hates medical cannabis and will go after anything that’s above-ground. His office is currently prosecuting five dispensary owners who were raided in late April, the first time the feds have prosecuted anyone over medical cannabis in Washington State in the 13 years since voters approved medical cannabis in 1998.
Jenny Durkan, the US Attorney for Western Washington, has been mostly quiet, but her office did issue a statement to the Times and it’s something everyone in the medical cannabis industry should read:
Ormsby’s counterpart in Seattle, Jenny Durkan, hasn’t launched raids, a decision that may reflect different priorities or office workload.
But in a statement to The Seattle Times last week, Durkan issued her sharpest warning to date.
She reiterated that her office won’t prosecute legitimate patients, their authorized caregivers or their doctors.
“Many others are operating well outside that zone,” she said. “The label ‘medical marijuana’ cannot be used as a shield to hide drug dealing and other criminal behavior. No one should take false comfort from lax local laws or marijuana-industry lawyers.”
Translation: Any medical cannabis provider who is not legitimately serving patients but is using the medical cannabis law as a cover for commercial dealing is going to be in trouble. And, to be honest, there are multiple operators in Western Washington who, for example, buy “medicine” that comes up from California and I know of reports of some operators moving alleged medical cannabis onto the commercial market. My hunch is they probably aren’t paying taxes either.
Well, now they have a fairly explicit warning from the top federal prosecutor for Western Washington that they need to clean up their act or watch out. I sure hope they clear up their act and soon because any action the feds might take against them would certain cause a lot of troubles for medical cannabis reform in the State Legislature.
By the way, the article is well worth reading for another reason: It makes it clear that there have been almost as many raids of medical cannabis facilities under President Obama as under President George W. Bush.