“It’s not a question of should there be a medical marijuana law, or who supports it, but how we follow the current law here,” Langley Mayor Larry Kwarsick said at a Langley City Council workshop last week.
About 80 people, including the full city council and Langley Police Chief Randy Heston, gathered to talk about whether the council should approve Lucas Jushinski’s business-license application for a medical marijuana “access point” in Langley.
City Planner Jeff Arango offered a PowerPoint overview of the state law that he said leaves “regulation of access points open to a wide variety of opinions and approaches in communities.”
Washington is among 16 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized the medical use of marijuana.
In Washington’s medical cannabis law ( RCW 69.51 ) of 1998, the state Legislature included a section that gives counties, cities and towns authority to adopt and enforce zoning, business licensing, health and safety and business tax requirements for licensed dispensers.
That’s why the Langley City Council can make its own decision to accept or reject Jushinski’s business.
The 35-year-old Iraq War veteran patiently outlined his comprehensive business plan to open a discrete operation that will give qualified patients “access to safe, legal medical cannabis.”
Jushinski proposes to open his non-profit business, Island Alternative Medicine, at 630 Second St., behind the Living Green health-food store and the All Washed-Up Laundromat. Jushinski said signage would be limited to “a small wooden sign with Buddha’s hand. There will be no pot images visible.”
Jushinski explained that access points are not really open to the general public and patients are not allowed beyond the reception area without photo ID and a medical cannabis authorization statement on tamper-proof paper issued by a health care professional. A receptionist must verify the patient’s medical marijuana card holding status and also the health care professional’s credentials.
Jushinki further explained that cannabis products would be kept behind a closed door, separated from the waiting area. Only one patient at a time will be allowed into the medication room. Patients can choose from strains specific to their particular condition, and will make a “donation” for the product. Use of medication on the premises will be prohibited.
Cannabis offered at Island Alternative Medicine will have been tested by a Seattle laboratory for purity and active chemical levels, and will be certified “organic and safe,” Jushinski said.
He plans to work cooperatively with local, legal cannabis growers to provide the medical marijuana he will offer.
“In policing myself, I’ve set the bar high,” he said. “What I’m proposing will be a clean, respectable and professional operation for delivery of safe medical cannabis to the people who need it. I want to show the community that I deserve to be here and also show respect for the community for allowing me to be here.”
Though this was not a public forum, Jushinski got a round of applause from the audience as he finished his presentation. Some in the audience suffer from painful health conditions that might be helped with medical cannabis, such as cancer. Others appeared to be there simply to support Jushinski’s efforts to bring this business to Langley.
Currently, there are no legal medical cannabis dispensaries on Whidbey Island. The nearest access point is in Mukilteo, in an industrial area on the Mukilteo Speedway.
Langley doesn’t have an industrial area, nor does its tiny footprint provide the same 1,000-foot separation from public areas that other cities have mandated for dispensaries.
Some Washington municipalities have called a moratorium on approving medical cannabis dispensaries, while others have regulated such businesses under standard municipal codes.
Jushinski has employed a business and a criminal attorney to assist him in presenting a plan that defines what Langley would be authorizing in granting him a business license.
His business attorney, Hilary Bricken, urged the city council to develop rules that address this type of business.
“Sensible regulation should be on the table here,” she said. “It’s easier and less costly to regulate sensibly now than to engage in litigation later.”
Langley is still about a month away from finalizing the hiring of a new city attorney, and council member Rene Neff felt the council should wait for the new attorney’s advice about how to regulate the proposed business. Though there was no formal motion, the council appeared to agree to postpone a final decision until after their new attorney had been consulted.
Jushinski asked the council not to drag its feet on approving his application.
“Every day you delay [this decision] is another day of suffering for a local person with a terminal or debilitating medical condition that medical cannabis can ease,” he said.