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Washington moves closer to collective model

Evergreen State update

By Martin Martinez Lifevine Foundation

Even though Washington’s medical marijuana law allows patients to possess up to 15 plants and 24 ounces of processed medicine, there is as yet no allowance for group cultivation.

But group gardens may soon become legitimate, based on the ‘Lifevine collective model.’ Some patient advocates already are drafting proposed dispensary rules for the fall legislative session.

While multiple-patient gardens have been frequently and willfully ignored in Seattle, that tolerance is not secure under law. Roughly half the state’s population resides in other counties, and Seattle’s progressive attitude is not shared in even its closest neighboring cities.

Tacoma followed the example of Spokane in May, going after cannabis patient groups. Westnet officers served warrants at the North End 420 Club and at the home of club owner Guy Casey. Forty mature plants were seized. The federally funded multi-jurisdictional task force included police investigators from Poulsbo, Bremerton, Port Orchard and Shelton, sheriff’s deputies from Kitsap County, Mason County and Pierce County, the State Patrol and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. When agents first encountered Casey’s 14-year-old son, they pointed a gun at the boy’s head, told him his father was going to prison, and left the teen in handcuffs for two hours while ransacking the home. Officers took cash from the room of Casey’s 9-year-old daughter — $80 from a Mickey Mouse wallet.

Two months later, Tacoma Hempfest founder Justin Prince was arrested with two other employees for operating the Tacoma Hemp Company dispensary. A high-ranking officer allegedly told Prince, “We aren’t going to have marijuana dispensaries here in Tacoma.” That same week, three other Tacoma dispensaries were told to close. All complied, but two reopened the next day. As of this writing, police have not returned and no criminal charges are pending. Jeremy Miller, founder of the Olympia Hempfest and owner of Sacred Plant Patient Coop in Tacoma, said, “It’s much like what happened in California. Police here are trying to create confusion and scare patients away. Cops are robbing cooperatives to try to force them out of business.”

Washington’s Medical Use Act was amended in 2008, but wording that would have allowed dispensaries was removed from the final bill. Three years later, state legislators and Seattle civic leaders understand that the majority of patients are physically unable to manage production of this life-saving herb. Instead of criminalizing and harassing legitimate patients who grow medicine en masse, authorities are now seeking to legitimatize responsible groups. There is hope that Washington patients will find themselves on the right side of the law for once, and for good.

For more info, see medmj-wa.com.

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