Wonder of wonders: King County, epicenter of the state’s drug culture, has begun cracking down on illegal marijuana dispensaries.
Pierce County? It’s still doing next to nothing about them – even as it prohibits legal marijuana stores.
King County’s prosecutor, Dan Satterberg, and sheriff, John Urquhart, have put two and two together: Now that the state has more than 150 licensed marijuana retailers (with more on the way), it might just be time to start shuttering the hundreds of storefronts and delivery services that have been operating outside the law.
“The law is now clear,” said Satterberg earlier this month. “The only way to sell marijuana is with a state-issued license. It’s binary.”
Never miss a local story.
Washington law has actually been clear on that point for many decades, though the “medical” pot industry has employed various legal sophistries to claim otherwise. Appeasement-minded public officials in Seattle, Tacoma and elsewhere have let the dispensaries fester since 2009, when former Attorney General Eric Holder and local U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan signaled a see-no-evil policy toward marijuana stores that were violating even liberal state laws.
Satterberg and Urquhart have finally begun taking a weed wacker to King County’s jungle of dispensaries. The crackdown is starting in White Center, where there’s a seedy cluster of marijuana stores in close proximity. (Tacoma officials, please take a tour of Sixth Avenue. And South Tacoma Way. And Center Street. And the UWT neighborhood. And Pacific Avenue south of Interstate 5.)
Like Tacoma, Pierce County has dozens upon dozens of illegal operations selling marijuana with impunity. Unlike Tacoma, the County Council majority has also forbidden retail stores approved by the voters under Initiative 502.
This is a strange case of double-think. County officials apparently see themselves – or want to be seen as – anti-marijuana. Thus the ban on what would be a handful of legal, regulated outlets. Yet the county continues to dither in the face of a host of outlets whose operators are openly defying the law.
A measure of relief might come from the state in the form of a new medical marijuana law that will take effect on Friday.
Senate Bill 5052 is designed to fold medical marijuana into the existing system of licensed retailers; it would expand the number of legal stores and allow some to specialize in strains of therapeutic cannabis. These commonly have low levels of marijuana’s psychoactive chemical, THC, and high levels of cannabidiol, a component that has shown promise in treating neurological disorders.
The best thing about the law: It targets the root of the faux medical industry.
Some medical marijuana users are legitimate patients. But a small number of quack practitioners have been making fast money by rubber-stamping authorization papers for thousands of ordinary pot smokers.
SB 5052 greatly tightens the diagnostic conditions for authorizing medical marijuana, requires a genuine doctor-patient relationship and mandates that practitioners who issue more than 30 authorizations in a month report their activity to the state.
If these anti-quackery provisions are enforced, the dispensaries’ customer base should shrivel.
A host of bogus patients would migrate to the licensed stores – which is exactly where they belong.