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.

Will the Tacoma City Council protect dispensary neighbors?

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on July 23, 2012 at 7:52 pm with 16 Comments »
July 23, 2012 6:11 pm

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Tacoma City Council appears to have backed down from a plan to enable “medical marijuana” sales in the city’s commercial districts.

Instead, it is contemplating a measure that would call dispensaries and other pot-selling operations what they are: illegal nuisances.

The move suggests that at least some members of the council recognize that the reality of commercial marijuana is far seedier than it seemed in 2010 – when the council more or less told the police to ignore trafficking if the traffickers put up a sign labeling the drug as “medicine.”

That tolerance policy spawned dozens of dispensaries that are not grandly popular with their neighbors.

Dispensaries were originally sold on the notion they exist to serve people dying of cancer and suffering from other severe illnesses.

An increasing public complaint, though, is that many of the “patients” walking through their doors look for all the world like ordinary dopers. Any honest person close to the industry will concede that it caters to a whole lot of recreational drug users.

The nuisance measure now before the council acknowledges this reality.

It makes an all-important distinction between collective gardens serving 10 patients each – which are legal under state law – and the illegal commercial pot shops.

Its adoption would be a good first step. The question is whether it is a sop to quiet the critics or whether the council is serious about shutting down the dispensaries.

A truly serious policy would skip the nuisance-abatement process and proceed directly to enforcement.

The city would first issue cease-and-desist orders to the dispensaries – something the council has forbidden in the past. Then the council would let the police bust a few of those that kept operating. End of story.

If the dispensaries are treated merely as nuisances, nothing probably happens until neighbors start complaining. The onus is on ordinary citizens who don’t want the blights in their back yards.

How many complaints will it take to shut down a dispensary? Will your complaints be ignored if you don’t live on the same block? Will the operators be able to thwart closure with a thousand procedural challenges?

Ultimately, the nuisance-enforcement approach will depend on a City Council more interested in the neighbors than the marijuana sellers. The council’s past sympathies are a matter of record. Don’t put your money on the neighbors until you see dispensaries closing their doors.

Leave a comment Comments → 16
  1. ivedunnit says:


    The ignorance of this editorial is astounding. You fail miserably to help us explain what the problem is. Even if many are partaking in non-medical use through via dispensary distribution, what’s the problem? Are people being killed? Is crime rising as a result of it? Are people drinking and driving and killing people? Oh wait, alcohol is a drug that actually has terrible social costs whether or not it’s legal. Marijuana has no such social ills. All the problems that are generated from marijuana, are ass a direct result of it’s prohibition.

    This newspaper, and the federal govt, seem to live under the same delusion that marijuana use is some terrible social ill that needs fixing. This is backwards. Marijuana prohibition (like alcohol prohibition before it) is the source of the problem. I don’t see you writing articles about those terrible people who get fraudulent prescriptions for oxycontin and those pharmacies that hand it out to them. Oxycontin kills. Marijuana doesn’t. Alcohol kills. Marijuana doesn’t.

    It would be nice if we had people educated enough working at our local paper to make this point instead of continuing down the path of ignorance and massive government that is further prohibition.

    “Don’t put your money on the neighbors until you see dispensaries closing their doors.”

    Actually, the Council will be serving the neighbors more by educating them about the facts. The fact is the prohibition will costs us all so much more than legalization ever will.

    Wake up TNT.

  2. Pecksbadboy says:

    Oh Please, businesses with a licenses to sell tobacco or retail goods that sell what they describe a “medicine” but have no FDA or health department regulation checks is not a business.

    They are selling home grown and cooked products to patients that “Need this Medicine” with no concern for immune deficient patients, or any regards to cleanliness needed for these patients. The FDA regulated Tobacco but not this medicine.

    They take only cash, do not give receipts for purchases and put plastic over their windows to protect customers from being seen is not a legitimate business.

  3. nvanputten says:

    The editorial board’s argument here is well reasoned and reasonably researched. However, the starting opinion of the board is terrible out of sync with the citizens of the City of Tacoma. The fact is that no matter how much this paper may dislike recreational marijuana use, voters overwhelmingly passed Tacoma Proposition 1 to make it the lowest enforceable priority. Tacomans simply don’t mind marijuana dispensaries, despite State and Federal law. While Tacoma doesn’t have jurisdiction to legalize its use, it does have jurisdiction to classify it as a “nuisance.” The fact is that this policy is most closely in line with the will of the voters. Objecting on the ground of unnamed “neighbors” despite the electoral results betrays the board’s starting bias. If the TNT editorial board has an objection, they should take it to the ballot box.

  4. Pecksbadboy says:

    The citizens of Tacoma passed laws for medical use of marijuana not for anyone over 18 to get high without the benefit of being regulated and taxed like we see now.

    Lets put it on the ballot now that all the profit people competing with BC bud and the Mexican drug lords.

    We have already seen turf wars within the so called “medical” dispensary communities in neighborhoods where I have a business in South Tacoma, the proposed “Green Light District” the Tacoma City Council had took a year to hear.

  5. Wow….what can I say about this editorial…”Insensitive” to fellow residents who use medical cannabis for medicinal reasons. Yes, I do understand that there is abuse with patients using for other than medical reasons. Yes, I do understand that some establishments should be closed. Your missing the point of creating a new city ordinance that would eliminate many of the problems mentioned in this editorial. A city wide ordinance supporting medical cannabis would regulate an industry that’s been basically operating without regulation (this is authorized for cities to create per the state statute which i’ll copy below). The recommendations that the task force and planning commission submitted to the mayor and city council would help eliminate the so called “drug dealers” from opening a distribution centers. Not only would there be back ground checks but on all employees as well (same as a pharmacy). Also, there were many very good recommendations concerning siting, enforcement and fiscal compliance. It’s a shame that many medical cannabis patients could lose access to this type of medicine. Where do they go? Do we want to create an illegal black market and keep the so called “bad guys” in business? A new city ordinance would basically assure safe and professional access for our citizens which require cannabis for medicine and put the bad guys out of business. Again, a very insensitive editorial. Lets hope and pray that whoever wrote this editorial or one of their loved ones never becomes ill with cancer, MS or another debilitating disease and loses access to medical cannabis if that’s there choice of treatment per our state law.

    RCW 69.51A.140
    Counties, cities, towns — Authority to adopt and enforce requirements.

    (1) Cities and towns may adopt and enforce any of the following pertaining to the production, processing, or dispensing of cannabis or cannabis products within their jurisdiction: Zoning requirements, business licensing requirements, health and safety requirements, and business taxes. Nothing in chapter 181, Laws of 2011 is intended to limit the authority of cities and towns to impose zoning requirements or other conditions upon licensed dispensers, so long as such requirements do not preclude the possibility of siting licensed dispensers within the jurisdiction. If the jurisdiction has no commercial zones, the jurisdiction is not required to adopt zoning to accommodate licensed dispensers.

  6. Pecksbadboy says:

    And any city or community can adopt NOT to sell.

    Collectives are NOT dispensaries and not really addressed, vaporizing of the drug is not mentioned, smoking of the product in public in not mentioned.

    In other words the law has SOOOOOOO many loop holes it is not enforceable by state or federal authorities.

    Play all the games you want but this is a recreational drug like alcohol or cigarettes and needs to be taxed regulated and shown for the mind and body altering properties it has always had.

    Humans seem to be need an escape from the hopelessness of reality so a drug that alters this state being alcohol, drugs or the mind control of religion seems to be a necessity to keep society running.

    We seem unable to control the mind abusers so we tax the drug altering mind abusers.

    Pick your battles.

  7. Pecksbadboy says:

    Here is a good example of patients of South Tacoma.

  8. Pecksbadboy says:

    Here is Green Light Expo but now they have a smoking room for cigarettes and cannabis. Again is South Tacoma

  9. Pecksbadboy says:

    donm, nvanputten,ivedunnit, please tell me how these ads for the places you feel are a good examples of the medical marijuana represent the voters the City of Tacoma and the choices they made ?

  10. pecksabadboy,

    The new city ordinance that the medical cannabis task force and planning commission recommended to the Mayor and city council would essentially put those type of business models out of business. All the recommendations we suggested (yes, I was appointed by the mayor to be on the task force) would never allow vapor/smoking lounges, farmers market, etc.., Again, medical cannabis like any other industry needs regulation and standards. If not you have an industry that is basically self regulating which doesn’t work (a good example was the videos you posted). Another example look what happened with lack of regulation from other industries…….banking industry, SEC, etc…

  11. Pecksbadboy says:

    donm, 3 months ago Morgan Chase admitted loosing $4 Billion or more with all the regulations that are supposedly in place.

    The Tacoma City Council and you did not even talk with the areas you decided to foist the problems on and you did not want to address as long as it is not downtown where “”real people can see it.

    This is not a new issue and NO regulations have been issued by the council in what now 4 years.

  12. Harry_Anslinger says:

    So for 80 years we have been flushing away tax dollars, driving the black market, not proventing access to minors, ignoring all evidence that cannabis prohibition was/is complete folly much like alcohol prohibition? More and more non smokers, religious organizations, political conservatives, health care providers and the American taxpayers are taking the blinders off and asking themselves what does cannabis prohibition cost in money, times, resources, and lives and has it actually ever been worth it? As Americans face the fact that maybe law enforcement, pharmaceutical companies, alcohol companies, violent cartels, and local drug dealers are the only ones that have anything to gain from continued prohibition.

  13. peckasaboy,

    I’m sorry but this isn’t true. We covered siting extensively and so did the planning commission. I was actually in that sub committee group “Siting” (we broke down into subcommittee groups) We had multiple meetings which were open to the public as well. The TNT leads people to believe the only place zoning was going to be allowed was So. Tacoma Way district. This is false. Distribution centers were to be allowed downtown, 6th ave and other commercial and industrial zoning and collective gardens only in industrial areas within the city of Tacoma. The planning commission also recommended the same recommendations as the task force. We had 1000′ set backs from schools, daycare’s and religious facilities. All residential areas were prohibited. In addition the place of business had an extension 2 phase application process. First, was making sure the applicant qualified via background check etc.. Second, business locations had to qualify as well which included zoning, security plans (i.e., cameras), floor plan (square footage limitation) and more. Like I said task force members spent a lot of time (9mos)covering fiscal compliance, enforcement and siting so Tacoma could have safe, clean and professional environments for legal medical patients. The new ordinance would eliminate the images you see in the TNT and other mediums.

  14. Paintmered says:

    I own a buisness in Tacoma right across for a dispensary/ hydrponics store. Now when they first went in and I called a meeting with the district complaining. He cried saying all the same crap about how sick his wife was with Lupus and how they were going to be a ” staple ” of how things should be done blah blah blah. It’s a bunch of BULL. We are not in a handicap friendly area, which they claimed they were only targeting the “sick” that can barely walk. One of the workers smokes pot in the alley, the people that go in and out of there! no offense but look like dopey bums. They throw there cigarette butts all over the ground, yet claim to be health concourse and all “natural”. Even more bull. The people including the owners look like addicts that chain smoke. It has hurt my buisness since our upper class clients are afraid of the people that are coming in and out of there. If someone really needs it ( like a cancer patient not able to eat )then fine, buy it in a pharmacy. But god forbid you try and eat right, work out and take vitamins for the rest of the people who “need it”. See a “real” natural path and get off the drugs! Lupus, arthritis, mental problems all can be put in remission with a proper diet and exercise. Get off your lazy butts. Have you noticed the people fighting for this are the addicts!

  15. I’m not an addict. I have run several marathons and 1 ultra. In addition I workout at crossfit, ymca and i’m a vegetarian. Again, the place your mentioning wouldn’t exist if we had an ordinance in place regulating the industry in Tacoma. The proposed new ordinance that the task force and planning commission worked on for several months would weed out (no pun attended :)) the so called undesirables due to a stringent application process we were going to have in place before permits would be issued by the city. Then even after a permit was issued each establishment were subject to inspections and other fiscal compliance requirements plus more…

  16. Pecksbadboy says:

    There will be NO STRINGENT process so donm your argument is mute.

    There is 1 (one) compliance officer for all of Tacoma.

    You have free reign to smoke your recreational drug and not be taxed like alcohol or cigarettes.

    Please enjoy and feel proud that you industry does nothing to contribute to the welfare of this city and county.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0