In South Sound, collective shrug over feds’ decision to keep pot on most dangerous list

Fed's pot decision buzzkill for backers

The Drug Enforcement Agency's decision to keep marijuana classified as one of the nation's most dangerous drugs leaves Tacoma dispensary staff and customers shaking their heads in disbelief.
Up Next
The Drug Enforcement Agency's decision to keep marijuana classified as one of the nation's most dangerous drugs leaves Tacoma dispensary staff and customers shaking their heads in disbelief.

Gov. Jay Inslee and South Sound marijuana users alike said they were disappointed Thursday by the Drug Enforcement Administration’s refusal to downgrade marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug.

Meanwhile, the announcement drew a collective shrug from pot shop owners and local government officials who said it won’t affect how Washington pot shops operate or how they are regulated.

“We will just keep going on with what our state has allowed us to do,” said Mike Lucero, purchasing manager at the Tacoma marijuana store, Two Five Trees.

At another Tacoma pot shop, World of Weed owner Alden Linn said he was encouraged that the DEA even considered the reclassification of marijuana.

“The majority of the rest of the states are ready for it,” Linn said of legalization. “There’s just not enough political will to make it happen. But the headwinds are there. It’s going in that direction.”

World of Weed customer Josh Reed of Tacoma said he believes marijuana doesn’t belong in the federal Schedule 1 category, the same category as heroin. Cannabis proponents were hoping for at least a reclassification of the drug to Schedule 2. That level includes cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone and Dilaudid.

“Drugs ruin people’s lives,” Reed said. “I don’t remember the last time anything bad happened with cannabis.”

Fellow customer Joseph Emile of Tacoma agreed. “You don’t use marijuana and commit mass shootings, you chill. Right now, I’m going home and I’m going to cook some chicken and rice. I’m going to sit down and turn on my TV.”

Inslee said in a statement that, while the decision won’t alter the state regulatory system established under Initiative 502, the federal government must do more “to provide states with legal certainty and empower the operation of safe systems across the country.”

“I am disappointed that we don’t have a national standard for at least medical marijuana,” he said. “Regardless, following the will of Washington state voters, we will continue to maintain a well-regulated adult-use marijuana system and continue to allow patients to have access for necessary medicinal purposes.”

Some cities cite federal law as the basis for bans on marijuana operations. Among them is Lakewood, where City Manager John Caulfield said on Thursday that the city will keep its prohibition in place.

But in University Place, where city officials have been weighing lifting a prohibition on marijuana businesses, the feds’ decision to keep pot listed among the most dangerous drugs isn’t expected to give the city’s ban new life.

“As far as the DEA’s failure to reclassify, I consider it to have no impact,” City Attorney Steve Victor said. “The fact that the federal government has so far not acted to enforce federal law to stop state legalizations, and has indicated that it is unlikely ever to do so, is really the material consideration in my view.”

For some in the state’s pot industry, Thursday’s news was harder to take. Matt Christenson, a budtender at World of Weed, called the decision “devastating.”

“It leaves me living in fear that any day they could come in here and turn me into a criminal,” Christenson said. “I provide for my family with this ... I’m trying to get a mortgage, I’m trying to be a productive member of society.”

His customer, Jason Stewart of Tacoma, said the DEA’s conclusion that the drug has no medical value doesn’t reflect reality. He suspected influence by powerful pharmaceutical companies.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with right or wrong. It’s about control,” Stewart said.

Two Five Trees owner Chad Dagais said marijuana should be regulated like booze.

“It’s not killing people, it’s helping people,” Dagais said. “It’s no worse than alcohol.”

Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541, @crsailor

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune