City denies business license appeal from medical marijuana collective
June 28, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
GreenLink Collective, a medical marijuana collective along a tree-lined street in a downtown neighborhood, is more similar to a drugstore or pharmacy than a social services organization, a city development official decided last week.
In a decision issued June 20, Hearing Examiner Ted Hunter denied GreenLink’s appeal. (The hearing examiner is a municipal official responsible for certain development-related decisions.)
GreenLink operators appealed in March after the city denied a business license application for the medical marijuana collective. GreenLink operators said the facility qualified as a nonprofit social-services organization — a use allowed in residential areas.
The planner assigned to process the license “noted that although some classes are offered that may be similar to the operations of a nonprofit, the primary purpose of the business as described on its website is that of retail sales,” the decision states.
Jake and Lydia George formed GreenLink late last year to offer medical marijuana to authorized patients suffering from AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions. Under state law, physicians can recommend but not prescribe medical marijuana to patients.
“We were troubled with the hearing examiner’s decision because it was thoughtful, but it ignored the core facts before the examiner, which was whether GreenLink most closely resembles a pharmacy,” said Aaron Pelley, a Seattle attorney representing the collective. “It was clear from the evidence that GreenLink only accepted donations and that they had applied as a nonprofit business.”
Pelley said GreenLink plans to appeal the decision, although no plan had been finalized June 24.
In addition to dried bud, GreenLink offers medical marijuana in topical ointments and snacks, such as cookies and brownies, plus pipes and vaporizers.
“If you can go and find a pharmacy that sells glass pipes for the consumption of medical marijuana, I would love to go there,” Pelley added.
Washington voters approved medical marijuana in 1998. Initiative 692 allows people suffering from qualifying medical conditions to possess a 60-day marijuana supply. The state Department of Health set guidelines for medical marijuana in 2008. Patients can possess 24 ounces of usable marijuana, plus 15 plants per person.
The law surrounding medical marijuana dispensaries remains confusing, despite efforts by state lawmakers to clear up ambiguous language.
The decision came as city leaders attempt to address coming changes in state medical marijuana laws.
In a separate action June 20, City Council members enacted a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens.
Pelley said concerns about medical marijuana colored GreenLink’s business license appeal.
“We have to deal with the fact that the city’s approach to zoning matters can’t be disguised,” he said. “It’s thinly veiled disapproval of medical marijuana.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.