Medical marijuana shop leaves Everett, hoping to make a home in Mukilteo
The proprietor of a medical marijuana patients collective who closed his Everett location seeks new digs for his operation.
The modest building housed the Medical Marijuana Patients Network, a collective started by Jeremy Kelsey.
Kelsey, 33, had to close shop last week after the Everett City Council voted to enact an emergency one-year ban on medical marijuana collective gardens. In doing so, Everett followed three other Snohomish County cities trying to stay ahead of a new state law that allows the gardens.
Under the state law, which went into effect July 22, qualified patients can unite to grow marijuana for medical use. Up to 10 patients can create a collective garden and harvest up to 45 plants and 4.5 pounds of usable cannabis. Dispensaries remain illegal in the state.
The Snohomish County Council this week decided not to take action toward imposing a temporary ban. The Mukilteo City Council on July 18 fell one vote short of the super majority required to pass the measure.
Kelsey said earlier this week that he is looking at real estate in Mukilteo.
"My shop, I think, sets an example for a lot of shops out there," he said.
He started the Medical Marijuana Patients Network before the law even saw the light of day. He said he was looking for a way to safely and conveniently get medical marijuana to treat his wife's fibromyalgia -- a syndrome characterized by long-term body pain. Kelsey said he also uses medical marijuana to relieve a chronic condition that causes stomach pain, severe nausea and vomiting.
Kelsey was first growing medical marijuana at his home in unincorporated Snohomish County but said he couldn't keep it going. His only other option at the time was to travel to Seattle. Nothing was available in Snohomish County -- at least nothing of medical grade, he said.
He applied for a business license in Everett in spring 2010 to start a cooperative. City officials kept giving him the runaround, he said, not saying directly whether the cooperative would be legal or illegal. It's because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, even if individual states have approved it for medical use.
"Nobody wants to take accountability," he said. "It's really sad."
The city eventually granted Kelsey a general business license. He said he spent the next few months obtaining the necessary permits and tweaking his Broadway building to meet the requirements.
The Medical Marijuana Patients Network also is registered with the Washington Secretary of State's corporations division.
Kelsey said he can comply with the state's new rules. The law doesn't say how long someone has to be a patient. While some members of the collective are long-term patients, others become patients for the period of time they are in the shop, Kelsey said. No business transaction can take place, so the collective donates marijuana to a patient, and a patient makes a donation to the collective. The law doesn't directly limit the number of collective gardens that can be in the same building, he said.
The law allows local jurisdictions to regulate medical marijuana collectives. Cities that passed moratoriums said they needed more time to research the issue and create appropriate rules. Many officials are gun-shy because of the conflict between state and federal laws. They cited potential raids by the federal government as a reason for the bans.
The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to enforce existing federal criminal laws, said spokeswoman Jessica Smith.
"While the department has maintained that we will not focus our investigative and prosecutorial resources on individual patients with cancer or their immediate caregivers, the sale and distribution of marijuana continues to be a federal offense," she said.
The department recently issued a memo stating that "persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law."
Kelsey has been speaking at city council meetings, urging officials to vote against temporary bans. He said he is preparing to take legal action against the city Everett.
"I've already gone through the zoning and planning, and the legal stuff," he said. "I've invested a lot of time and money only to have them pull the rug from under us."
He hopes the collective will find a new home in Mukilteo.
Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine is not enthusiastic about the possibility of other collectives migrating to Mukilteo.
Not all shops are legit like Kelsey's, he said. "We need to have some basic rules in place."
He said the issue is back on the agenda for Monday's City Council meeting. Mukilteo council members are expected to approve some kind of interim regulations for medical marijuana gardens. They also could change their mind on the moratorium.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; email@example.com.
Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.