North Highline UAC, May report #1: Medical marijuana

By Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

When the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council held its monthly meeting on Thursday evening before a large audience, the two current issues which dominated were the three known medical marijuana dispensaries which have appeared in the unincorporated area of North Highline and the proposed elimination of the ongoing “contract” between King County and the existing six Unincorporated Area Councils.

This report focuses on the first topic, with another story to come: Councilmembers queried Captain Hodgson from the King County Sheriff’s Office and King County Council 8th District Representative Joe McDermott, who each provided insight and as much known information as was available on both areas of concern.

On medical marijuana, the theme seemed to be that authorities are taking a “cautious approach.”

King County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Hodgson provided his monthly updates to the group which will be provided later, but the bulk of his participation was addressing the questions from the council and audience who were seeking clarity on KCSO’s stance toward the three currently known dispensaries, White Center’s Herbal Legends, Green Piece (GAME Collective), and Top Hat’s Cannabis Oasis, which have each opened their doors within the last two weeks.

Hodgson prefaced his statements by saying that KCSO is taking a baseline cautious approach. “The fact of the matter is [these operations] may be completely compliant with the law. I am commenting here because of the public outrage we have received as a police department, but the fact is that we may get in there and find out they are not violating any public law. If that’s the case, we’re going to have to learn a bit of tolerance,” he said. But, he says, “We will come up with a strategy – I don’t know that it will be tomorrow though. But the Prosecutor’s Office and the Sheriff’s Office are not secure in breaking down doors because of the lack of clarity in the law.”

That grayness of the current state law regarding medical marijuana was brought up repeatedly as different angles on the gaps the medical marijuana initiative (approved by state voters in 1999) has created. Of great concern to the group was public safety and the impact on economic development for the fragile North Highline community which does not have the oversight of city governance and, because it is in the unincorporated area of King County, has less restrictive if not different business and land use licensing requirements than those areas which are incorporated. Two weeks ago, Governor Gregoire partially vetoed Senate Bill 5073, which was recently approved by the legislature to regulate medical marijuana enterprises. A special session is currently in progress and a new bill is reported to be in progress. Neither Hodgson nor McDermott had seen it.

The community members, law enforcement, licensing agencies and the “dispensaries” themselves must negotiate what is current law and its interpretations as the proposed Olympia legislation moves through that process which could, potentially, result once again in a veto by Gregoire. In the meantime, Hodgson says, “We’ll have to work in partnership with the Prosecutor’s Office and possibly DDES and maybe even the federal government to figure out what the best approach is. We’ve established that the security in those businesses far exceeds anything else in the area. Our problem is we have to get in there to see what is going on to determine what law or what part of the law they might be violating in order for us to make arrests or even to get into the building on a search warrant. Cities and other localities have had good luck with fighting these places with the licensing requirements, but as we’ve said, we don’t have the licensing requirements here in North Highline.”

When some spoke to their concern that the citizens of White Center are being forced to deal with the lack of licensing requirements from the County, Hodgson pointed out that KCSO would be working with DDES on this and if the process with the dispensaries is anything like Club Evo’s licensing saga, DDES will probably give them a chance to apply for a license. But, he went on to say “DDES has notified us that as far as they are concerned, these businesses are illegal, so I don’t know where that puts them with that application process.” The seemingly dead end regarding County licensing was not lost on Councilmember McDermott, who also encouraged all to contact their legislators:

The notion of King County imposing a moratorium on any such businesses was brought up by Diana Toledo, who ran for King County Council last year and has said she will run again this fall. McDermott agreed that if the legislation does not get approved with more enough guidance, that he believes the County Council will look at a moratorium. Toledo said, “ I am hoping that it isn’t going to be the case here in White Center, but I’m thinking back to other local cities who did not have moratoriums on certain entertainment establishments such as strip clubs and strip malls. It makes you think of the secondary negative effects for those communities… What happens inside the closed doors of a private club isn’t necessarily my concern, but those establishments spilled out on to the streets and affected the kids with drug use and prostitution and other things of that nature. And that’s where the communities have had huge concerns with it.”

Continuing, Toledo said “With the current lack of a moratorium, and as long as it might take for the Sheriff’s department to sort out what they are going to do, and determine what’s legal or not, there could soon be 50 of them here. Especially if they know they are going to be soon [declared] illegal or that there a future moratorium is coming – that’s when they spring up. I would just encourage you (CM McDermott), based on what we have learned from other establishments and cities that have targeted these types of neighborhoods that are desirable because of the low rent to consider a moratorium. Now, I don’t know for sure and I haven’t looked at the issue until Mr. Johnson suggested it. But I would encourage you to take a look at it and see what is really preventing the County from immediately following suit with the other cities [which have imposed moratoriums].

Hodgson addressed the question of the Green Piece/GAME lounge and whether patients/customers will potentially be at risk of endangering themselves or others if they are under the influence of cannabis when they leave. The lounge provides marijuana to properly papered patients, but also encourages smoking of marijuana and socializing on the premises, as well as prepares and serves THC-infused food (medibles). Vendors of the medible products at an event at Green Piece had previously told WCN that they do not condone driving cars after consuming the food and were concerned that the lounge may not have policies addressing overuse or consumption of marijuana given the environment the lounge is providing. The vendors said that when THC is digested, the effect is slower to induce the therapeutic effect but also is metabolized much slower and is a more body-relaxing “high” which is significant enough to warrant not driving an automobile.

Capt. Hodgson explained, “The burden of proof on a DUI, whether it is alcohol or drugs, is proving that the driver is impaired.” WCN had also been told by Capt. Hodgson and Capt. Beutschli that Drug Experts are available at KCSO who can identify the markers of drug impairment in an individual and could potentially be called in if an individual is suspected.

The Department of Health, which oversees licensing of food businesses, says on its website that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal businesses and therefore do not have regulations regarding them and any food they might serve. Some folks were not clear on how smoking could be allowed in a “medical” facility, but because the Green Piece lounge is a nonprofit “private” club, patients/members forego the right of a nonsmoking environment in public establishments.

“We have to remember that this law was approved by voters, not by a Council or a legislature. I do not think that this end result was foreseen. Certainly, I think most of the voters who voted yes on the ballot did not foresee this and now have regrets. Of course, there are some who are pleased about it. But, there wasn’t enough foresight in that ballot measure to draw the lines [of what is allowed or disallowed],” said Capt. Hodgson.

What was not “foreseen” was reflected in the questions that came up but had few solid answers, and most will not until and unless the special session legislation addresses them, or potentially the King County Council and Executive act independently to address the permissive licensing requirements for unincorporated King County. The long list of concerns addressed the gaps including whether there will be a limit on the number of dispensaries allowed in certain areas. Hodgson said reiterated that KCSO has no authority for such determinations and that DDES would be the authorizing body.

Numerous additional questions were asked and comments made which may have to wait for legislation which may or may not arrive from Olympia: How can dispensaries, or any one for that matter, sell marijuana which is still illegal under federal law? (Sixteen states have medical marijuana laws which allow possession by authorized patients.) Others wondered how a nonprofit can operate and receive donations and write off expenses and how the state Department of Revenue and IRS address this by law for dispensary type businesses.

Again, no easy answers. (Part 2 of our meeting coverage is yet to come.)

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15 Responses to “North Highline UAC, May report #1: Medical marijuana”

  1. This State has to be the DUMBEST state EVER!
    Lets Break this Down PLEASE.
    a rent of a place in fact on 98th and 16th ave sw is $4000.00 per month
    Electric about $400.00 per mo
    water sewer gas trash about $1300.00 per month.
    Buying the POT (stock) about 3000.00 per month
    OK…. add it all up per month around say.. $ 8700.00 plus over head about $1500.00 so approxamate total will be $10,200.00 per month. you mean to tell me that this ONE place has enough clientel or …OK….Prescribed mediacal marajuana patients to get thier Prescription filled EVERY DAY…EVERY MONTH… and still have thier doors open? Is there that many people out here in Washington State or even Seattle need THAT MUCH pot to survive or that many people need the pot as much as me going to the store and getting milk and eggs and bread? Do you see where im coming from?
    There is NO WAY POSSIBLE that this place or any place in that matter can afford to keep the building open month to month unless they are selling to the general public. AND another note…its ok to smoke there in these places but my next door neighbor will get arrested and jailed cause he/she had a party where they smoked it too? DOUBLE STANDARDS.
    Please do not delete this messege…it make too much sense.
    Thats just saying that 60% of the people in Seattle rely on Medical Marajuana. Nooooo! I believe that the Baby Boomers and the pot heads are gonna have a field day on the States expense.
    The artical i just read above did strike me strange. IM SURE whe the Department of Justice starts the investigations here in washington (Seattle) Monday…this WILL be addressed and handled. face it, You can fight city hall but you CANNOT fight the Federal Government. Believe me …we all tried.

  2. HighPointRes Says:

    Great points Joe- Unfortunately most residents who are willing to look at the numbers are not willing to take a stand. Once again it’s the small (but loud) minority that will get their way, and once again it’s our children who will suffer.

    You made a great point, at those numbers the only way they could stay in business is by selling to anyone and everyone.

  3. I recently went down to this area [98sw&16sw] to see for my own eyes what was realy going on. To my suprise I seemed to whitness what looked like a lot of gang activity between the dispencery and the bar across the street. There seemed to be a lot of back anforth activty. Then when I walked into the parking lot of this bar I was aproached by several what looked to be gang members to buy weed. I hope the police have been whatching this type of activity. Since then I have stoped in the area to obsereve and this activity seems to go on Quit a bit. Someone pulls in to the bar then someone goes over to the dospensery comes back then the car leaves. Kind of strange don’t you think. But then I could be wrong about what I have been whatching.

  4. @ Highpointres
    I just found out that this place on 98thSW does not have any licenses, permits to serve food (as they are) paying no taxes (due to no license) No Liquor license (as they serve booze) No certificate of occupancy no fire permit…how the heck did they open? Why are the cops and the Liquor agents who constantly scower white center handleing this? are they afraid of the gang bangers?
    i need answers. This is crazy, they bugged me everyday making sure i had the proper papers, licensing and permits but yet its soooo illegal to smoke and serve pot in ANY business property in this state and yet they look away. What gives?
    I know about the Gang bangers going in there getting the pot and selling out side in the asian bar parking lot. are the cops here nieve? i want to see it on the news that everyone got locked up there and those gang bangers and the landlord get arrested too. i hope to God that the property gets seized by the Feds.
    This is soooo crazy.
    The WCCDA and the Chamber better do thier jobs and take care of this now.

  5. It’s a mad house down there. Drug and prostitute rowe all day all night…and if in doubt, spend a day parked on 16th and watch it all go down. KCSO is well aware of what’s going on down there…send e-mails to KCSO and ask them why they allow this activity to occur day and night. The streets aren’t safe anymore. All the effort, time, and proactive community policing Deputy Steve Cox and Deputy Jeff Hancock did to keep our streets safe from gang and drug dealing activity has been in vain. Shame on KCSO. Remember the days when they were about proactive community policing at it’s finest, what a difference from then to now. KCSO administration has blatenly turned their backs on WC, thanks.

  6. Who’s up for a protest rally?

  7. Heidi We need to get jesse.

  8. I think that since this issue has become the forfront in todays news that I will send an email to the tv stations about this problem. It seems that the fears that people had about the mix of a pot house and the gangs are comming true. I think Kiro would love to track this story. Maybe even contact Dori Monsen talk show this would be right up his alley.

  9. boy!….my thoughts exactly..

  10. whites lie Says:

    It really bothers me to hear people judge others by what they wear, look, and skin color. (Heidi) You may not say it in those exact words, but listen to yourself please! So people who don’t dress like you, talk like you, or hang out where you do, are people who participate in illegal activity? My question to Heidi, what do you do for a living and if you are employed, how do you contribute back to your community? Do you really sit on 16th for a day to watch people who you have no relation to and/or really care about just to keep your eyes open? Why not open a business on 16th and actually learn how to be social and meet the people who color these little streets of White Center. If you do have your eyes wide open, you do see that there are people coming together to make this a better community for our kids. In other words, our streets aren’t any different from others just because we have diversity that populate our city.

    About G.A.M.E, we see that they are in business and more than likely is a legit one, registered by the State (not Federal duh!) and bottom line is keeping our economy growing.

  11. Blacks lie Says:

    Listen Mr Whites lie are you covering for all the ileagl activity that goes on on 16av sw? People have been around. Alot of us have been in white center along time. You don’t have to be a genuss to figure out whats up. As far as people taking the time to whatch what is going in the hood you should be greatful. You should be greatful that there are people out there that care about where you live. Whens the last time you were at a block whatch or a crime prvention meeting? Also by your coment it sounds like you have an investment in G.A.M.E. . As far as being leagl, I’m sorry but the Feds over rule everyone. Nice try.

  12. Very interesting view you took on my post,(white lie). Not sure how you got judging out of it. I have been proactive in WC for about 11 years opening the doors to a more community oriented policing style community, building bridges to create a safer place, jump starting weed and seed door to door and through meeting after meeting, and laid the ground work for others to succeed in this vision of an open connection to build a safer environment for all by developing successful relationships, which I do believe required social skills. I have traveled all over this country and even into neighborhoods that you might not dare venture into, to support them and help them build safer thriving communities with transparency to and through community oriented policing. I currently work for a general contractor, and prior to that I worked in ECE for 20 years. I additionally worked in WC at a local pub for 2 years off and on as needed just recently.

    It’s true I have spent a lot of time in WC and have gotten to know a lot of people and clientele that frequents both night and day, so when I talk about gang bangers, drug dealers, and prostitutes, I know what I’m talking about and I know exactly who they are.

    Instead of sitting back and complaining, I once again familiarized my self with why crime is escalating again and more importantly, why are there so many violent crimes going unreported, it’s obvious that bridges are crumbling and the community oriented policing protocols are slacking and lacking. Somewhere the trust has been broken by some. My eyes are wide open, and I see wonderful people opening businesses who care about what happens in WC and that’s a valuable asset to the WC community.

    It doesn’t take a day of sitting on 16th to know what is happening there on the streets, if you have been educated on crime and you know what your looking at, it’ll take you ten minutes tops to witness a drug deal, to be able to identify a gang banger, and see a prostitute leaving with a john and so forth.

    Our streets are becoming different and rapidly, they are becoming drug and gang infested once again, and WC is known once again to score all kinds of street drugs and people come from afar just to buy them.

    GAME in its self is not the issue here that I am concerned about, it’s the spillage of clientele walking out of GAME to meet individuals on the streets passing drugs to them, and yes it does happen, it’s the concern of clientele leaving GAME, then later putting 40 stitches into someone’s head, and yes GAME is NOT RESPONSIBLE for their clienteles actions, but it does raise an eyebrow of how high are these people getting, and I am not the only one to witness the spillage, read other post’s.

    Any other questions you have, feel free to ask. Thanks

  13. Just because your registered by the State DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO SELL WITHOUT A LICENSE and:
    No Insurance
    No Business License
    No Fire Permit
    No certificate of Occupancy
    No Food Permit
    Smoking in a Commercial establishment (which everyone voted for)
    Not paying Taxes
    (you all know even if you sell a Fart in a business you have to pay the tax)
    Sooooo!… What gives any Medicinal marajuana Business authority to do business with out ANY permits or Licenses?
    We all have to do it to have a Business here…why not them?
    Hey!!! Even a Pharmacist has to have these too. so how the heck why do you think they can. You Know dang well that if these places get closed down, the landlord WILL INFACTget the property siezed by the State of the Government. and possebly get arrested too.
    Face it ..being regitered is fine…but you MUST operate any business which product is SOLD for cash Profit or not must possess a Business license and proper permits. ITS THE LAW!
    Think about it please…the laws are for a reason, if someone gets hurt in one of these places, a fire, burglury, anything, This protects the public who enters the business as well as the proprioters.
    Its very IMPORTANT to have Law and Enforce it. This whole episode of Medical marajuana is was done too fast and not prepared properly. These guys jumped the gun and leaped in too fast till this was ironed out first.
    By Right, They are commiting Felonies and crimes.
    Am I Right??
    Criminal possession of a controlled substanse with intent to sell and selling is a crime EVERYWHERE.
    Registered or Not. Sorry folks, The truth is the Truth.

  14. WHAT HAPPENED? NO ONE has NOTHING to SAY??? Did the place get closed down yet??

  15. Still in operation, as are other medical-marijuana enterprises around the area.