Blue Byline

A cop's perspective of the news and South Sound matters

Illegal dispensaries are a roadblock to legalization

Post by Brian O'Neill on Sep. 9, 2012 at 12:33 pm with 23 Comments »
September 9, 2012 10:59 pm

Here’s the scenario: You are part of a grassroots movement trying to change a law you perceive as outdated, irrational and just plain wrong. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that your goal is the legalization of marijuana. How do you go about it?

You begin by educating politicians, the media and the public on marijuana’s medicinal value, the potential increase in tax revenue resulting from its legalization, and the money that could be saved by not enforcing, trying and incarcerating those who use it.

Courtesy of

You make some headway, and your timing is good. The one big hurdle standing in the way, however, is a decades old stigma attached to marijuana. That stigma is amplified by the parasites who circumvent the system in the name of greed, who use the sketchiest of logic to operate drug markets and keep that negative perception alive and well. Like remoras, they attach themselves to your best efforts no matter how much you attempt to dissociate from them.

Instead of a clear message, the political battle to legalize marijuana is a blur. End scenario.

The rational voices advocating for legalized marijuana are losing volume against the constant whine of greedy, slippery and impatient drug dealers who operate just over the edge of state law. All the former want to do is discuss marijuana’s medicinal properties, its potential taxability as a recreational drug; all the latter want to do is sell marijuana to anyone who knocks on their door.

In Friday’s Trib (9/7), the City of Tacoma formally, and finally, took a stand: Employees served three marijuana dispensaries with cease and desist orders (a number that could increase to as many as forty). Officials from the city’s Finance Department utilized city business code violations to close dispensaries which, unlike collective gardens owned and operated by permitted private individuals, have chosen businesses which sell marijuana to permitted customers (“patients” would be a disingenuous term given the ease of obtaining a medical marijuana permit).

The audacity of these dispensaries is truly mind-boggling. Though some make a sincere effort to behave as legitimate businesses, many provide one stop shopping for both marijuana prescriptions as well as the product. A large percentage also follow the legal guidance of Tacoma attorney Jay Berneburg, who counsels his clients in “How to Act Like a Collective Garden.”

This imagine and greed-infused method is a distortion. In the real world, our state requires people to officially join as members of collective gardens to harvest their own marijuana plants. In Berneburg’s reality, the customers – sorry, members – join the collective garden with a simple signature upon entry.

Consider further: State law also requires members to give official notice of their intent to leave the collective garden. Berneburg’s reality: Have them sign that form on the way out the door.

But wait, there’s more. When the tax man knocks on the door of your dispensary, the response is, “Sorry, tax dude, we’re a collective garden.”

This is the type of wink and nod sideshow that should make even the most cynical dope dealer blush. Such parasitic, self-centered behavior could negatively alter public perception on the legalization issue just as initiatives (such as I-502) arrive on the ballot. This leaves advocates fighting a battle on two fronts, one against unfair public perception and the other against legitimate public perception.

Whether you agree with the efforts of marijuana advocates or not, the machinations of the legalization process in Olympia are an exercise in democracy. In America, social change often comes frustratingly, maddeningly slow for those trying to affect its pace.

But when the moment comes, when the political, cultural and legal stars begin to align and our state appears on the verge of accepting a new standard, those who have waited and advocated so long for that moment may come up short because some greedy pot dealers who want to have their cake, eat it and then shove it in our face.

Leave a comment Comments → 23
  1. Earth_watch says:

    Brian, your opening supposition sounds reasonable except that’s not what I-502 is about. Although it’s partly about a small bit of decriminalization so as to hike taxes on those who need the medication, but it’s also very much about re-criminalizing in many other ways and creating impossible situations for medicinal users to avoid DUIs. That’s why people are rightly opposed to it.

    The real “stigma” you speak of seems to be your own (and that of the TNT editorial staff, based on this week’s opinion piece) that all dispensaries are evil places. To call all dispensaries “drug dealers” is not only inappropriate, it appears to be a clear attempt to sway public opinion on an upcoming ballot measure (and thus a complete misuse of this column which should be used to shed light about insider police topics).

    Dispensaries do not sell to “anyone who walks in the door” (in fact, unauthorized patients wouldn’t even be able to get through the door) and the three dispensaries you mention had issues with their business licenses, not their business practices.

    The reason I-502 is failing is because it’s a terrible law being promoted by (perhaps ignorant or easily swayed) people who clearly know nothing about actual medical marijuana use and dispensation. From what I can tell, patients and dispensaries would welcome consistent regulation and reasonable taxation, and they need to start working on creating it themselves, though, since those who came up with I-502 did a horrible job which no one should support. I-502 is failing because it’s a terrible suggestion in sheep’s clothing, not because of those trying to make medicine available to those who need it.

  2. notSpicoli says:

    This notion of Earth_watch the I-502 is “failing” is erroneous. Erroneous. It is leading in the polls.

    Under I-502, a blood draw cannot be taken from a driver until all three of the following conditions have been met: (1) probable cause for an arrest, (2) reasonable belief of driving while impaired (typically established through field sobriety tests), and (3) reasonable belief the impairment is caused specifically by drugs, and not alcohol.

    After the blood draw, the paperwork is sent to the prosecutor who then makes a decision as to whether the conditions warrant proceeding withe the case, i.e., probable cause and evidence of impairment. Only then does the prosecutor order that the blood be tested. I-502 sets a specific level for active delta-9 THC, not metabolites. Under current law, people are convicted of DUI with levels lower than the 5 ng limit set by I-502 and even on the bases if inactive metabolites. No one wants impaired drivers on the road, no matter what the cause.

    I again point out that I-502 has been endorsed by every major marijuana reform group in the nation. It is a measured, sensible, and reasonable bill that recognizes the reality of responsible adult cannabis use but imposes regulations, and provisions to safeguard our streets, children, and neighborhoods.

    It does not change the state’s medical marijuana law in any way. The taxes of I-502 do not apply to medical cannabis. They apply only to the privately owned businesses that grow, process and supply marijuana to adults 21 and over. This law does not change grow limits for medical cannabis users. It does not restrict the right for medical users to participate in collective gardens. It does not prevent a medical cannabis user from going to a dispensary if it exists.

    I-502 is not failing. For accurate information on I-502 and medical marijuana, please visit the FAQ’s at the New Approach Washington website.

  3. notSpicoli says:

    As a clarification, marijuana is not “prescribed” as is stated in this article. The word prescribe is a federally-regulated word, and to prescribe cannabis would be illegal under federal law.

    Just as doctors cannot “prescribe” glucosamine or chondroitin because they are not FDA approved, so too health care providers may recommend the use of medical cannabis, not prescribe it. The preferred is that health care providers “authorize” the use of medical cannabis.

  4. Earth_watch says:

    NotSpicoli, sadly, your retoric is coming straight from those who are funding I-502… you should read the actual initiative, not the spin of those financing it. I believe you are sincere in your desire to provide regulated medicine, but that is not the intent of I-502.

    Either way, I’m surprised you didn’t comment on Brian’s article which speaks so stereotypically on the issue. I will absolutely support a fair initiative, but not this one.

  5. NewDragon says:

    Spicoli you are so full of propaganda. Do not forget, I 502 was written by LAWYERS! That says all ANYONE needs to know. Lawyers don’t do good things for the people, they do things to pad their pockets.

    VOTE NO ON I 502

  6. Brian O'Neill says:

    When my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer her doctor wrote out a prescription for marijuana, which her family filled it at a dispensary in Tacoma. I was impressed by her physician’s confidence in the efficacy of medical marijuana and thought that Olympia’s tortuous legislative process may result in good law. To that end the public must be patient.

    The problem are the grow operations, which include many dispensaries that are abusing the public’s purpose by selling pot to recreational users. I have discussed this issue with many friends in the undercover narcotics business who have served search warrants following an investigation. In some cases, the only paper needed to purchase pot was paper money.

    If these businesses continue skirting the law, exactly what is the public supposed to do in November? My guess is that further shenanigans, especially under the fiber thin arguments of the dispensaries’ attorneys, might ultimately lead to voter rejection of marijuana regulation in any form.

    Legitimate advocates need to rid themselves of dope dealers in disguise.

  7. Pecksbadboy says:

    Yes they sent 3 cease orders letters when there are more marijuana sales places in Tacoma than normal pharmacies.

    Club420 that is now called Green Light Expo never got a letter when they are across the street from Vapebar. They have lots of lawyers and won is court before so Tacoma and law enforcement won’t even touch them for parking or in front of the building or cigarette smoking violations.

    All of Tacoma enforcement from the City Council is a joke.

    WA State can make it legal buy a referendum but they can not tax and regulate it since it is a federally controlled substance.

  8. nwcolorist2 says:

    Brian, anyone that can’t see your, and the TNT’s, logic is probably smoking something.

  9. moms4marijuana says:

    I just think the insurance lobbies and the pharmaceutical lobbies are the real criminals. These penny ante dope dealers are not affecting the national economy or local crime.

  10. Brian O'Neill says:

    I agree that there are real problems with corporate greed, fraud and corruption, m4m, but do not kid yourself about the nature of the fringe marijuana dealers. Most of the home invasion robberies I have investigated have been related to legal marijuana grow operations. The indirect crime resulting from users and addicts is also a heavy economic burden, both for victims and for the jails.

  11. notSpicoli says:

    To highlight from above, that I-502 is not losing: A SurveyUSA poll of September 10 has I-502 support at 57%, up 3% from July. Meanwhile, undecided voters went from 13 to 9%.

    To ease Mr, O’Neill’s concerns, in an article releasing the poll results, The Stranger suggests the shift in undecided voters, “If anything, it shows the medical-marijuana industry’s dishonest campaigning against I-502 appears to have been unnoticed—or proven counter effective—to the general electorate.”

    And with success comes the possibility of even more national dollars coming into the campaign. One patron is now matching contributions to New Approach Washington $3 to $1.

    And yesterday I-502 received an endorsement from the Seattle Children’s’ Alliance, whose members include major social services agencies The Alliance believes that marijuana usage by teens can be reduced by prevention strategies, such as those that reduced tobacco use by kids. “From that, we concluded that appropriate public messages and limits on advertising, as well as other interventions, can reduce teen use without criminalizing adult behavior.”

  12. Pecksbadboy says:

    Brian, what does the m4m have to do with the pot industry? Your prejudice is showing…….

  13. Pecksbadboy says:

    Are you saying m4m or (Men for Men a subculture name for Gay) is one of the main advocates of the sales of marijuana?

    Please give statistics for it.

    I feel it is just a personal prejudice by you.

    If that is the case you should not be a commentator or a sort spokesman for the law enforcement community.

  14. Weird, all this time I thought federal law was a roadblock to legalization. Voters put the most dope friendly person in US history in the white house, and yet marijuana is still classified as a schedule 1 drug.

  15. Earth_watch says:

    Pecksbadboy, I believe Brian’s referance to “m4m” was actually in reply to “moms4marijuana”.

    NotSpicoli, please reveal who the matching funds paton is. (large donations doesn’t make an issue right, but I’d still like to know who this particular funder is.)

  16. notSpicoli says:

    It’s hard to type when one is laughing so hard. The Roseanne Roseannadanna “Never mind” moment of Peksabadboy is pretty comical.

    Earth_watch, I don’t know the name of the donor. The announcement about it is on the Pierce County NORML page. Of course a full list of all donors and amounts contributed is available at the PDC website.

    By the way, it is no surprise that I-502 has strong support from the gay community. We remember Carlton Turner, White House Drug Czar under Ronald Reagan, and his famous “fact” that, “Marijuana leads to homosexuality, the breakdown of the immune system, and therefore to AIDS.” A Twofer–the drug czar had the opportunity to demonize two groups at once–gays and marijuana users. That we were paying a government official to spew such primitive propaganda and bile to the American public is shameful.

  17. Pecksbadboy says:

    Let’s hear from Brian the Cop as to M4M comment???????

  18. Brian O'Neill says:

    I was unaware of any significance to m4m other than as an abbreviation for “moms4marijuana.” I also thought that notspicoli answered the question well enough, so I stayed out of it.

    I apologize for any lack of clarity, but I think your reference was a bit of a reach.

  19. Pecksbadboy says:

    Sorry Brian, you are out of touch.

    Google M4M and what do you come up with??????

  20. Pecksbadboy says:

    I have never heard of Mothers for Marijuana, where did you hear of it?

  21. Brian O'Neill says:

    Read the comment string – moms4marijuana is the account name for one of the people you were discussing. Hopefully I don’t need to Google pecksbadboy in order to have this conversation.

  22. hannibal says:

    You can really see that the politicians law enforcement officials and lawyers behind I-502
    are getting their 3 million dollars worth from the TNT. This is the best “news” that money can buy.

    I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the people with 3 million dollars to spend to control the marijuana market and bust every regular smoker (and any driver under 21 who smokes) for DUID are the greedy ones behind a new escalation of the drug war under cover of per se DUID laws.

    The TNT’s over the top smear campaign is similar to the National Socialists’ racist slurs that all jews were greedy exploiters, and has at its core a similar big lie, that I-502 is anything but a scam by the government to put every driving pot smoker’s neck firmly under the boot heel of a State Trooper.

    The honest germans in the Weimar Republic were trying to reform government too, but the greedy jews just got in the way, according to the TNT’s predecessor, and apparent inspiration, the NAZI’s joseph Goebells.

    This type of hate mongering is the standard tactic of fascists like the TNT editorial Board, and has nothing to do with truth, it is merely divisive propaganda designed to up port the corporate interests of the shadowy corporate forces behind I-502.

    Heil ZeeK!

  23. Brian O'Neill says:


    When people abuse the “it’s like the Jews and the Nazis” cliche, it stretches the comparison to a degree that only demonstrates the writer’s lack of compassion. You want to say something negative about politicians, the TNT or any group or individual who opposes your viewpoint? Fine, say it. Make your point.

    Just don’t throw your 1st Amendment rights in everyone else’s face by dragging the Holocaust into it. That piece of history is light years beyond your issue.

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