This past Saturday, under the early evening light of the "Supermoon," a team of Lynnwood police officers gathered in front of BZB Medical Group, a medical-marijuana co-op nestled in a shopping center on 168th Street Southwest and demanded to be let in. Inside was co-owner Sophia Howell, who says they told her "either open the goddamn door, or we'll go get the crowbars." She opened the door. Now, even though she's received no orders from the city of Lynnwood to close the co-op and been charged with no crimes, she says she's giving up. "Snohomish County is just too hostile," she says. "I'm going to try and set up in Seattle."
"The officers contacted a person right in front of the business, they learned it was engaged in activity that was outside the [medical-marijuana] statutes, so they entered to stop the illegal business from occurring," says Nelson. "Later we obtained a search warrant and searched the business. Under the current law, a medical-marijuana dispensary can't exist."
He's right, of course. Under Washington's vague marijuana laws, dispensaries and co-ops are not sanctioned, and owners with more than the 15 plants and 24 ounces onsite are treated no differently than individuals who are barred from having more than that.
But not every county's police force is a letter-of-the-law stickler when it comes to medical-marijuana providers. Howell says Snohomish county is "by far the most oppressive."
She says she's had it, and is looking at either Seattle or north King County as her next destination. She also says that she's far from the only co-op to be forced out and have to look to the city for salvation.
"Ken and Rob at the Satica co-op were in Edmonds and were forced out. They'd been trying to get into unincorporated Snohomish County, but it was a nightmare," Howell says. "Angel Care Alliance was in Marysville and they had their business license revoked by the city. Now they run the B&A Green Thumb in Seattle."
The cat-and-mouse game of medical-marijuana providers and cops is sure to continue until better legislation is passed that brings the operations out of the shadows and into legitimacy. Senate Bill 5073 would create a process to license cannabis dispensaries and co-ops like BZB and has already passed the state Senate, awaiting approval in the House.
Howell doesn't have the luxury of waiting for the bill to pass, be signed by the governor, and then implemented--or rather, she says, her patients don't.
"I have about 450 regular patients who depend on us for their medication," she says. "They're begging me to stay open somewhere. I'm just trying not to let them down."