August 26, 2009 in City

Medical marijuana seller busted during buying trip

Oregon doesn’t recognize pot permits from other states
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Scott Shupe, co-owner of Change, a medical marijuana dispensary in Spokane, was arrested in Oregon last week with 4 pounds of weed and $18,000. Shupe says he was bringing the pot back to the business.
(Full-size photo)

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More than a thousand medical marijuana patients have purchased the drug at a small dispensary on Northwest Boulevard in Spokane in the nearly five months it’s been open.

Business is booming, and Scott Q. Shupe, co-owner of the dispensary, intended to keep it that way when he set out for Oregon with thousands of dollars and a lead on several pounds of marijuana.

Shupe, 54, was driving back from Bend, Ore., on Friday afternoon when an Oregon State Police trooper pulled him over for crossing the centerline.

That trooper found 4 pounds of marijuana and more than $18,000 in Shupe’s 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier station wagon – supplies destined for his dispensary, he said.

Shupe’s status as a medical marijuana patient in Washington didn’t matter. Oregon doesn’t recognize medical marijuana permits from other states.

Even if it did, patients and caregivers are limited to 1.5 pounds at time.

Shupe is back in Spokane after posting $7,500 bond.

His arrest underscores the dichotomy between medical marijuana patients and police and prosecutors charged with enforcing drug laws.

Washington’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in 1998 and adjusted later by the Legislature, doesn’t specify how card-carrying medical marijuana users can obtain fresh bud or how caretakers can legally obtain seeds to grow their own. The law also doesn’t address how dispensaries such as Shupe’s can obtain their supplies.

Spokane County prosecutors have said they believe dispensaries such as Change, which Shupe owns with Christopher Stevens, violate the medical marijuana laws because they provide marijuana to more than one person.

But how they’ll address that remains to be seen.

Federal law prohibits marijuana use, even for medicinal purposes, but U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has said he won’t target medical marijuana users.

Locally, police and prosecutors work together to decide who to target and how.

Darren McCrea, founder of the medical-marijuana advocacy group SpoCannabis, was charged Aug. 4 in an investigation that began in October 2007 and culminated with a police raid in June 2008 on his north Spokane home, where detectives found more than 5 pounds of marijuana, according to a probable cause affidavit.

McCrea faces charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, manufacture of a controlled substance and five counts of distribution of a controlled substance.

McCrea’s situation is similar to Shupe’s. Court papers show police heard McCrea was “selling marijuana to anyone with a medical permit.”

The shelves at Change were nearly empty Tuesday. Two jars of fresh marijuana sat where Shupe said at least six usually do.

Shupe is hopeful he’ll get his marijuana and money returned, but Wasco County (Ore.) District Attorney Eric Nisley said the law isn’t in his favor.

“It’s going to be a tough one for him,” Nisley said. “He’s probably looking at prison if he’s convicted.”

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