Emiel Kandi, Seattle Times Cover Boy for Predatory Lending, Is Also a Major Player in the Medical Marijuana Scene

As portrayed in the big Seattle Times expose on Sunday, Emiel Kandi is the worst kind of predatory lender, someone who seizes upon borrowers' desperation to charge exorbitant rates and cheat people out of their homes. He also, as noted at the end of the Times piece, has opened a medical marijuana "dispensary." In fact, as several people tell the Weekly, he has quickly become an active, vocal--and now, perhaps, embarrassing---member of the movement.

Though he calls himself "a wolf" in the Times story, his own business is called COBRA Medical Group. And when Tacoma officials threatened to shut down all of the city's dispensaries last month, Kandi sent out a call to arms. "We will raise an army," he wrote in the three-page document, threatening to "lay a political siege" to the city's "arbitrary dictatorship." (See pdf of Kandi's letter.) Tacoma officials had maintained that dispensaries--which sell marijuana to multiple patients--are illegal under the state's medical marijuana law, but have since backed down. The city council is now awaiting the coming state legislative session, where at least one bill will propose that dispensaries be legalized.

Kandi maintains the flashy profile depicted in the Times story when on the marijuana circuit as well. When he attended a meeting of marijuana activists in September to discuss a bill proposed by Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle),"He was wearing a three-piece, pinstriped suit," recalls Alison Holcomb, director of the state ACLU's drug policy program." He was also talking up an alternative bill he had drafted. "She says the proposal he laid out would allow dispensaries to be loosely-regulated, for profit enterprises, whereas Kohl-Welles' bill would have such business be non-profits regulated by the Department of Health.

"The impression I got is that he is more interested in making dispensaries a profitable business...than in making sure patients are safe and protected." That shouldn't exactly come as a surprise to anyone who has read about his work in the lending business.

And to some observers, that's refreshing. Kandi is part of a new generation of dispensary owners who are "focused on the money and less on the bulllshit and fighting each other" that have derailed those who came before them, says Ben Livingston, a board member of the Cannabis Defense Coalition, a medical marijuana education and advocacy group. Kandi is also one of about 20 members of a new trade group for medical marijuana businesses called the Washington Cannabis Association, according to group spokesperson Philip Dawdy. Dawdy, a former Seattle Weekly writer, says his group has no judgment on Kandi's lending career. (Kandi could not be reached for comment.)

But legislators and the people who vote for them surely will pass judgment, and they might just decide that any industry represented by this kind of unsavory character should not be legitimized. "It's a risk," Holcomb says. She prefers to think that Kandi will instead illustrate just why it's so important to regulate the industry, as Kohl-Welles is proposing.

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