By Ashley Stewart Herald Writer
LYNNWOOD — A group of Martha Lake neighbors want a medical marijuana dispensary near their homes closed.
Rick Benefiel, 62, the president of the Martha Lake Homeowner’s Association, said his biggest problem with the business is that it is within walking distance of Martha Lake Park.
The neighbors learned the dispensary was open more than a week ago after the business filed for a land-use application.
“We want to keep this a family-oriented area and having it so close to that park is just asking for trouble,” he said. “You just don’t know what will happen.”
Hypeherbally Holistic Health owner Justin Ruiz said the business has been operating for seven months. He said he serves more than 1,000 patients.
“We are real people and business owners who happen to believe in alternative medicine,” he said.
If the county doesn’t close the business based on zoning, Benefiel said he and other neighbors will try to have its business license revoked.
Snohomish County Councilman Dave Gossett said that the county is taking a hands-off approach to medical marijuana and deferring to state laws to regulate the industry.
In June, Ruiz got a letter that said he had to apply for a zoning interpretation or close his business.
Commercial business zone code does not list medical marijuana dispensaries as a use, so Ruiz is asking county officials to decide if his business fits any of the described uses that are on the list.
Ruiz doesn’t grow marijuana at the business on Sixth Avenue W. just outside of Lynnwood. He said he’s given marijuana from collective gardeners who can only grow 24 ounces per patient.
He then uses his business as a place to distribute marijuana to other patients. He doesn’t charge them, but takes cash donations.
The dispensary is listed on websites for medical marijuana patients. The building doesn’t have any signs.
Benefiel and other residents found out about the business when county officials posted a notice of Ruiz’s application Friday.
“This is still a residential area,” Benefiel said. “I don’t think that what we need is a facility that sells marijuana, legally or otherwise.”
Benefiel worries that these businesses aren’t being effectively regulated and doesn’t think it should be near the park at all.
“If they are going to do this they should do it in the basement of the police department,” he said.
Benefiel said he and his wife helped convince Snohomish County to build the park when a developer was considering building condominiums on the land.
So far, the county hasn’t heard of any incidents of drug use in the park, said Rich Patton, operations supervisor for Snohomish County Parks and Recreation.
Benefiel disagrees with Patton, saying that the supervisor should come out to the park to see what’s happening.
Ruiz said that there is a process for dispensing marijuana and that he has to talk to a patient’s doctor before they are allowed inside the building.
“You can’t just come in and grab it,” he said.
The state passed a law in 1998 allowing the use of medical marijuana, but the law was vague on how patients would get the marijuana.
Last year, legislators set guidelines for dispensaries and collectives. While Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed portions of the bill, she allowed other parts to move forward.
Cities and counties throughout the state have been handling dispensaries differently.
Many cities in Snohomish County have placed temporary bans on the gardens. Other local governments such as Snohomish County and the city of Everett have stayed silent on the issue, deferring to state law.
The issue comes up as people in Washington, Colorado and Oregon are set to vote this fall on legalizing marijuana for recreational use.