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(USA) Washington State medical marijuana laws need clarification

SPOKANE – Police, prosecutors and protesters all have a stake in the medical marijuana law in Washington State and on Monday about 100 people voiced their frustrations over the law in a protest in front of the courthouse. The protesters gathered to let police know they shouldn’t have shut a northside marijuana dispensary down, but there’s more to it than the protest. Some say last week’s raid on Change in north Spokane and the arrests of its owners could be the case that help clarify the medical marijuana issue in Washington State.

That would be welcome news to police, prosecutors and protesters as well.

Four months ago after a change in state law several medical marijuana dispensaries sprung up in Spokane selling marijuana to patients carrying medical marijuana cards. Now the Spokane Police Department have shut down the businesses and arrested the owners of the dispensary.

“I got out of jail Friday afternoon,” Change co-owner Chris Stevens said.

The police have issued a warning to others in the Spokane area to stop selling marijuana or they’d be arrested too.

“There’s going to be a lot of people upset that they can’t go to the store and buy the marijuana,” Spokane Police Department spokesperson Jennifer DeRuwe said.

The problem seems to be confusion in the law itself. The law only allows providers to sell to ”one patient at any one time” What does that mean? That only one client can be helped at a time? One a day? Or that the dispensary can have only one client total?

Prosecutors say the law needs clarifying while protesters like Nathan Graham agree, saying that the law “doesn’t make any sense.” Even the police, which conducted the search warrants and made the arrests last week, are looking for some guidance.

“We just really need to get some guidance on this issue,” DeRuwe said.

“I don’t know if the dispensaries are intentionally evading the law … it needs a clearer definition of what’s allowed.”

For now though police and prosecutors say that local medical marijuana dispensaries were breaking the law in that they were selling to more than one patient at any one time. That might solve one side’s interpretation of the law, but where does that leave the people who thought they were following the law and can now no longer get medical marijuana?

“They have no choice but to go back to the black market,” Chantel Jackson said.

“I’m forced to go to drug dealers,” Nathan Graham said.

Until there’s additional clarification in the medical marijuana laws in the state there’s only one  certainty in the issue: All local medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane will remain closed.


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