Over the past few months, Ballard has become home for two medical marijuana dispensaries: Ballard Herbal Collective and the Seattle Cannabis Co-op.
“People need to feel comfortable here,” explains Stacey K., founder and director of Ballard Herbal Collective, located in a building on NW 56th and 22nd Ave. “My dad has been a longtime patient, and I have seen the benefits of medicinal cannabis.”
Located not too far away on 77th and 15th is the Seattle Cannabis Co-op. “We have been in Ballard for two and a half months and we will probably stay for the next two years. We like this area a lot,” says Jing Mok, key director and president of SCC. “There is less of a social taboo to marijuana amongst the young people.”
Ballard Herbal Collective
In the State of Washington, medical marijuana is already legal, but it seems to be stuck in a gray area. People with authorization from a doctor are able to grow up to 15 plants and hold at least 24 ounces of dry marijuana at a time; or they can dedicate a person to grow and provide for them. However, under the existing Washington State Medical Marijuana laws, co-ops are not exactly legal, but nothing in the current laws say they cannot be there.
Due to the way the current laws are written, there is not much that the Seattle Police Department can do to shut the dispensaries down. “For us, we know that medical marijuana exists in the city. We are looking at one right now, and ultimately, the reason we are doing it is because of community concern, it’s not a proactive concern,” Sergeant Sean Whitcomb said when I called to ask. “The bottom line for us is that marijuana is a very low priority. Since medical marijuana is legal, dispensaries are not something that we dedicate resources to, that is until they come to our attention in a negative way; via individual, community, or business complaint.”
All of the marijuana dispensaries in Washington must operate as non-profits. When a patient has more than their allotted 24 ounces for 60 days, they will make a donation to one of these centers. The donated marijuana is then sold to people who carry an authorization card, to cover business costs; in Stacey’s case it’s just enough to cover the rent. “We all volunteer,” Stacey tells me. “We are here to help others, not bring in a lot of money.” Despite his intentions, Stacey’s landlord has still not decided whether or not he will allow Ballard Herbal Collective to stay in their current location.
Other tenants in the building do not seem to mind what Stacey does. “We have no concerns,” one tenant says in his office below the dispensary. “As a tenant we would have loved to have been notified before he moved in, but so far no problems.”
Seattle Cannabis Co-op
But one neighbor of Seattle Cannabis Co-op is far from happy. “I smell it every day, it gives me headaches,” says Ann, the owner of Ann’s Hair Salon and Nails. “My customers complain about the smell, and my landlord won’t do anything about it.”
Due to the smell, Ann says a few of her customers have decided to not to come back, which in these economic times have made things extremely difficult. She says she’s also having problem with parking. “I pay for two parking spots, and their customers park in them, even with my signs.”
A firm believer in alternative medicine, Stacey moved to the Ballard area for many of the same reasons as Jing — because of its location. It’s just close enough to downtown, safe, and easy to access from anywhere; especially for those in wheelchairs. “The first location we looked at had stairs and I realized that the group of people I am trying to help can not always do that.” Stacey says. “This is one of the few locations that is wheelchair accessible.”
Both SCC and Ballard Herbal Collective say they’d like to stay in the area. Stacey wants to remain small and focused on serving the Ballard community. He thinks that there are a lot of people in Ballard that could be well served by knowing more about, and even the use of medicinal marijuana.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles has introduced legislation that would establish a regulatory system for the sale and purchase of medical marijuana. “There is much ambiguity around our state’s current medical marijuana laws that is resulting in inconsistent enforcement throughout the state,” she said.