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Medical Marijuana Club Loses Lease, Struggles to Find New Location

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Emerald Cross, a cannabis club run by a Port Orchard woman, is closed and its future uncertain after the organization lost its lease.

The club, which dispensed marijuana as medicine to people with physician authorizations, occupied a building in an industrial neighborhood of Seattle. Director Sue Watson located the dispensary in Seattle because she was told by the Kitsap County Prosecutor's Office that the operation would not be tolerated here.

Seattle is, by reputation and law, more accepting of medical marijuana use. Voters there in 2003 passed a measure that makes arresting and prosecuting individuals with less than 40 grams of marijuana the "lowest law enforcement priority."

Nevertheless, Watson said she is having trouble finding a new location for Emerald Cross because of property owners' fears. "I've had three places all lined up, and they backed out at the last minute," she said. "They were afraid the feds were going to bust us and take their property."

Although Washington voters in 1998 legalized the use of marijuana as medicine, the federal government doesn't recognize any legitimate use of the drug. The Kitsap Sun published articles last month documenting the confusion created by the conflict between state and federal laws. Interpretation of the state's medical marijuana act varies from county to county. Doctors largely are fearful of recommending marijuana as medicine, and patients who find relief in the drug are forced underground.

Watson said she lost the Seattle building because the landlord presented new lease terms that Watson found unfavorable, and the landlord declined to negotiate. The club has been closed since Nov. 3.

"I had to be out of there and I had to put everything in storage," Watson said.

Watson said she is continuing to look for a new location in Seattle. Meanwhile, she said, she doesn't know how Emerald Cross' roughly 900 club members will manage without their medication. The club was one of a half-dozen or so cannabis clubs in the state.

Patients have told the Sun that when they can't obtain their medicine through a club and lack the ability or energy to grow their own, they must buy it on the street.

The state Department of Health was directed by the Legislature this year to study how legitimate users of marijuana can safely gain access to the medicine. The department is due to report back on the question by July 1.

Source: Kitsap Sun (WA)
Copyright: 2007 Kitsap Sun
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