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Friday, December 13, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Marijuana allies protest

Rallies held over police crackdown on dispensaries

Marijuana dispensary owner Chantel Jackson joins  protesters outside the Spokane Regional Health District building on Monday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Marijuana dispensary owner Chantel Jackson joins protesters outside the Spokane Regional Health District building on Monday. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Some have HIV. Others suffer from cancer or chronic pain from car accidents and job injuries. One man burned most of his body in a gas explosion as a toddler and wasn’t expected to live.

All have a prescription to use marijuana in Washington, and all gathered Monday outside the Spokane County Courthouse to protest the legal battle brewing between law enforcement and the medical marijuana dispensaries that police recommended be shut down last week.

“For the ones that it helps, we need to find a way to get them their medicine,” said lawyer John Clark, who does free legal work for marijuana dispensaries. “I have some acquaintances who are going through chemotherapy. For some people, it’s just a miracle drug.”

The warning to the dispensaries came on the heels of the first police raid in the state of Washington at a medical marijuana dispensary, Change, on Northwest Boulevard. About 11 dispensaries still operate in the Seattle area.

Change owners Scott Shupe and Christopher Stevens face charges of felony delivery of a controlled substance after a four-month police investigation that centered on them providing marijuana to more than one authorized patient.

The law allows a person to provide medical marijuana to one authorized patient “at any one time.”

Prosecutors and police say that means dispensaries, which serve hundreds of people, are illegal. Voters approved medical marijuana in 1998, and the state Legislature set possession limits last year at a pound and a half per person or 15 plants. But how users who don’t grow can obtain marijuana legally hasn’t been addressed.

About a hundred people gathered outside the Spokane Regional Health District building and the courthouse Monday to ask officials to change that.

“Where are we supposed to tell our patients to go?” said Rhonda Duncan, co-owner of the dispensary Club Compassion, which specializes in marijuana-based food products and closed after Thursday’s raid at Change.

“All of my clients want to comply with the law and run it like any other pharmacy,” said Clark, who works with Club Compassion. “We’re just hoping that reasonable guidelines can be hammered out so the responsible dispensaries can stay within those guidelines.”

Police investigated Shupe and Stevens knowing it could trigger a lengthy court battle, which police said is needed to clarify a law even pot advocates say is confusing.

Their investigation was fed by Shupe and Stevens’ blatancy in selling marijuana to more than 1,000 medical marijuana patients at Change since April, according to a search warrant.

Drug detectives started watching them after seeing a TV news story in May about the for-profit business, according to a search warrant.

The men spent about a day in Spokane County Jail before a judge released Stevens on his own recognizance and Shupe, who’s facing felony marijuana charges in Oregon, posted $10,000 bond.

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