The owner of the last unlicensed medical marijuana dispensary in Bellingham said he’s staying open, despite being told by the city to close, because his patients asked him to.
Grass Roots Collective, 2200 Pacific St., was among the 13 businesses notified by the city of Bellingham that they must close by July 1, if they don’t get approval from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to sell medical marijuana.
Grass Roots was still open Tuesday, July 12, while the others have closed or were able to get the OK from the state.
Owner Jaramie Thomas said his patients are worried about having their information, which they believe should be private, put into the state medical marijuana database. They’re also unhappy about the higher cost – including the 37 percent excise tax at the cash register – the low doses, and that they can no longer get the medicine they need.
I’m still waiting for that final notice letter. Every day, I don’t know when my last day will be.
Jaramie Thomas, owner, Grass Roots Collective in Bellingham
Medical marijuana, which had been largely unregulated, is being folded into the regulated recreational pot industry, which state voters essentially created by approving Initiative 502 in 2012.
The city of Bellingham sent two rounds of letters within the past six months, reminding such dispensaries of new state rules and the July 1 deadline. It will send a third letter to Grass Roots Collective.
“The city is still evaluating enforcement options, but we do intend to send Grass Roots a final notice and want to work with them through this transition period. That being said, they are operating at their own risk and are not in compliance with state rules,” said Kurt Nabbefeld, the city’s development services manager.
Thomas said he’s been keeping the city updated.
“I told (Nabbefeld) we’re not trying to bust the system,” Thomas said. “I’m still waiting for that final notice letter. Every day, I don’t know when my last day will be.”
Todd Russell, co-founder of Herbal Legends Cannabis in Bellingham, acknowledged Thomas’ concerns, including high costs for patients.
“That is something that is going to have to change,” Russell said.
But he said medical marijuana products are out there and people either may not be familiar with the new offerings or they may have to go elsewhere to find people who have knowledge of medical marijuana.
Russell started the business at 2118 James St. as a medical marijuana collective named Healthy Living Center. The name was changed to Herbal Legends Cannabis after it got a state license and can now sell both recreational and medical marijuana.
“I know there is a lot of concern for the medical patients,” Russell said. “I think, at the end of the day, we just need to join the system and we need to start changing it.”