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Medical marijuana dispensary owner on trial

Thu., March 17, 2011

A trial with statewide implications regarding the legal distribution of medical marijuana will go to a Spokane jury today after attorneys give closing arguments.

Scott Q. Shupe, who co-owned one of the first marijuana dispensary businesses in Spokane, faces felony drug charges in a case that is challenging the legal interpretation of the law that allows Washington residents to legally purchase, possess and use marijuana for medicinal purposes. At issue is the legal phrase “only one patient at any one time.”

Defense attorney Frank Cikutovich said the key to the case is language regarding the sale of marijuana from a care provider. He argues the law allows dispensaries to essentially become the care provider for the limited time when they sell to each licensed marijuana card holder.

However, prosecutors have interpreted the law to mean that only one care provider can distribute the drug per patient, which would mean that several transactions at dispensaries per day would be in violation of the law.

“We have a defendant who did everything he possibly could to comply with the law,” Cikutovich said.

During each transaction, Shupe and his partners at the Change dispensary, 1514 W. Northwest Blvd., would write down the time of the transaction to note when they were providing the care through the sale of marijuana. Shupe also verified that each customer had a valid license for marijuana and double-checked those records with medical clinics that issued the authorization.

But a jury will decide, beginning today, whether Shupe complied with the law or will be convicted as a drug dealer.

“I kind of hope he loses,” Cikutovich said of his client, “so we can take it to the Court of Appeals to get a ruling on what the law means.”

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