Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

It’s a little late to plead ignorance about pot shops

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Aug. 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm |
August 26, 2011 5:47 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Looks like another round of dithering from the Tacoma City Council on medical marijuana.

At the council’s behest, Mayor Marilyn Strickland is assembling a “task force” of citizens tasked with helping council members shirk accountability for letting a commercial marijuana industry fester illegally in the city.

The group is supposed to advise the council on whether it should tolerate marijuana stores, also known as dispensaries. It’s hard to see this as anything but an attempt to outsource the question to people who bear no public accountability for it.

The issue came before the council last year and has been hotly debated ever since; any council member who actually needed more facts on the matter at this point would do well to confess a case of terminal obtuseness and resign.

The council has had time to study the issue ad nauseum. It knows that every competent legal authority, from the city attorney on up to the county prosecutor and the state attorney general, says that the sale of marijuana is illegal under state law, including the initiative that legalized medical marijuana in 1998.

The law does allow collective gardens of no more than 45 plants shared by a maximum of 10 patients, who can hire a skilled marijuana gardener (no shortage of those) on a strictly nonprofit basis.

The Seattle City Council has decided to pretend that this explicit restriction somehow allows dispensaries to sell pot to unlimited numbers of customers.

For the Tacoma City Council, the question is whether to mimic Seattle’s toleration policy or actually honor the law. It ought to close Tacoma’s roughly 50 marijuana stores – which for some strange reason far outnumber the city’s pharmacies – and stick to genuine collective gardens.

This would be a whole different question if the authorization of marijuana use hadn’t been corrupted by legions of drug seekers posing as patients and quack doctors eager to accommodate them for a fast $200 a head (no medical records required, often, and your money back if you don’t walk away with a license to use).

Let’s be clear: There are responsible doctors who write marijuana authorizations for legitimate patients whose medical conditions are alleviated by cannabis. But any honest person in this business will concede that it abounds with bogus patients who are chiefly interested in getting high with a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Check out the online conversations. Users themselves readily say as much on pot forums. An example, from “I might be wrong on this but I will say that I don’t know of any patient that doesn’t use it for recreation as well and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

The nature of this industry is as obvious as a stripe on a skunk. So is the law.

If city council members want to provide legal access to the drug to bona fide patients, they can do that by approving nonprofit 10-person collective gardens. If their goal is to keep dealers in business and create the Sound Sound’s mecca for sanitized drug trafficking, they should step up and answer for it.

But after all this time, they shouldn’t pretend they don’t comprehend the issue and need the sage counsel of an unelected committee.

The News Tribune now uses Facebook commenting on selected blogs. See editor's column for more details. Commenters are expected to abide by terms of service for Facebook as well as commenting rules for Report violators to