By Bill Sheets, Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — A group hoping to operate a medical marijuana co-op in Marysville with the blessing of city officials will not be able to do so anytime soon.
The city’s hearing examiner on Tuesday ruled against Elevated Medical Treatment’s effort to get a business license. The group was appealing the city’s earlier decision to deny its application.
State law allows a medical marijuana patient to designate an individual to serve as a provider of the marijuana. Group members tried to assure officials that they maintain a one-to-one relationship between patients and providers, but hearing examiner Ron McConnell noted they were applying for the license as an organization, not as a person.
“That ‘person’ thing keeps coming back and haunting me,” McConnell said.
Marysville city attorney Tom Graafstra said the group operates similar to a pharmacy that dispenses drugs, and medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal in Washington state.
Still, the law is admittedly vague, which made his decision difficult, McConnell said.
“I’m not closing the door on any other options or opportunities to come back with something a little more creative, perhaps,” McConnell told group members. “Start fresh and see if you can meet the (legal) criteria with a new application.”
Medical marijuana was legalized by voter initiative in 1998. A patient who has a written recommendation from a doctor for marijuana use may grow it or may designate a single provider to grow it for them if they are physically unable to do so themselves, according to the state Department of Health.
It is not legal for anyone to buy or sell the drug, and not legal to possess it except by personal growing for prescribed medical use.
“There is no legal source for seeds or seedlings, however, making it unclear just how patients are supposed to begin a garden,” according to a Department of Health paper on the subject.
Many patients turn to other ways of acquiring it, such as on the black market, through other patients or from illegal dispensaries, the paper said.
At the hearing Tuesday, Kathleen Jensen of Arlington, one of the directors of Elevated Medical Treatment, said she is a disabled veteran and uses marijuana to treat a chronic gastrointestinal disorder.
“If I don’t use it, I can’t eat,” she said.
She said the group’s goal is to provide a safe, sanctioned place for patients to acquire their medicine “and not feel like criminals.”
Graafstra said he could find no record of any similar organization to receive a business license in the state. Jensen said it could be that no others have applied.
“As far as I’m aware, we’re the only group that’s taken it this far and willing to be notorious about it,” she said.
Elevated Medical Treatment in March applied for a business license to run the operation out of a house in Smokey Point. It listed its intended service as “holistic, herbal, alternative, organic remedies,” without mention of marijuana.
“They misrepresented in their application what they were going to do,” Graafstra said. He said this alone would be grounds to deny the license.
Jensen said group members admitted they made mistakes in the application process, but suggested that other businesses do, too, and are still granted licenses.
The city denied the group’s application in early May based on it appearing to operate as a dispensary. The group then filed an appeal.
McConnell said his wife is a two-time breast cancer survivor who received conventional treatment and that he understands what the group is trying to do. He said he had to make his ruling based on state law.
“I think you’re making a phenomenal effort here,” he said.
A tearful Jensen declined to comment immediately after the hearing and could not be reached later.
Q&A on the law