The owner of a medical marijuana dispensary set to open Friday in downtown Port Townsend expects it to be popular.

“We've had a lot of positive feedback from people just while we were setting up,” said James Loe earlier this week.

“There are a lot of medical pot patients here, and they are excited about not having to drive out of town to get their medicine,” he said.

“They want to get it quickly, take it home and start medicating.”

The Townsend Herbal Collective is located at 1139 Water St., which was last occupied by A-1 Photo.

It will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays “so people can get their medicine on the way home from church,” Loe said.

Loe has renovated the space to contain a reception area, a secure room where the marijuana is displayed and a storage area.

The storage area will contain a safe where the product and cash will be locked up each day, he said.

In November, voters approved Initiative 502, letting an individual user possess and legally consume up to an ounce of marijuana, though not in public, with the eventuality of providing a retail channel for recreational use of the drug.

Voters already had approved a process for providing medical marijuana in 1998, and the state Legislature amended the procedures in 2007 and 2010.

The laws governing medical and retail channels do not necessarily intersect. The rules for operating a retail establishment are in development and are scheduled to go into effect in 2014.

The Port Townsend Police Department will not make any accommodations or preparations for the dispensary's opening, Chief Conner Daily said.

“We don't expect any trouble from medical dispensaries,” Daily said.

“From what I've observed, they are all following the law.”

Officer Luke Bogues, the department's spokesman, said, “I hope they do what they can to remind his customers about the dangers of smoking and driving.”

“Someone impaired by marijuana will be treated no differently than if they were drunk if they're behind the wheel of a car. They will be arrested for DUI,” Bogues said.

“Also, marijuana cannot be displayed or smoked in public. So it's best if his customers take the product home and keep it there.”

Loe had leased a space earlier at 1433 E. Sims Way but then decided it didn't accommodate his business. That location now has been leased by Gracen Hook, owner of the Port Hadlock Alternative Clinic, 215 W. Patison St., who plans to open a branch of his business there in September.

A dispensary called Canna-Copia is located at 661 Ness' Corner Road in Port Hadlock.

Loe and Hook both said there was enough business to support multiple dispensaries.

Loe became acquainted with the medical uses of marijuana after his father became a patient in the 1990s after he contracted hepatitis C.

Loe said medical cannabis worked when other treatments failed since it does not have some of the negative side effects, such as nausea and constipation, of narcotic pain medication.

Loe said he began using cannabis to treat back pain, while his mother, who is working with him in the business, became a patient because of kidney disease.

Dan Skinner, Loe's uncle and the store's third employee, became a patient for acute pain resulting from on-the-job injuries, Loe said.

While some of the medical pot consumed by Loe and Skinner produces a high, both said they prefer the medication that does not have any consciousness-altering aspects.

Aside from a division between products that are active or benign with regard to getting high, Loe plans to offer a variety of smokable products, edibles and liquids, all produced and manufactured within the state.

While recreational users are allowed to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana, the medical limit is somewhat larger, with each patient allowed 24 ounces at a time.

Loe said it is illegal for a patient to sell or share medical pot to anyone without a prescription, and plans to advise people of that regulation. He expects that most patients will purchase a few grams or cookies at a time, but if anyone purchase more than Loe thinks he or she can consume, he will advise him or her of the law.

“I will speak to them about what they are allowed to do and not do — out of the earshot of other patients, of course,” Loe said.

Hook said he was surprised Loe was opening downtown, favoring his own new location because patients can come and go with more privacy, but Loe said he does not expect there will be a stigma around those seen entering or leaving the shop.

He does expect to attract curiosity seekers, people getting off the nearby ferry and coming into the store hoping to buy marijuana products.

“We will get a lot of people coming in and asking questions,” Loe said.

“We will explain to them that they will need an authorization to buy from us.”

If someone has an authorization, they can present it — along with a driver's license — to make a purchase, Loe said.

Loe said his current location would not qualify as a retail outlet, since such businesses are required to observe a 1,000-foot buffer from certain facilities, including ferries.

“We are not 1,000 feet from the ferry dock, so this will never be retail,” he said.

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Author: Charlie Bermant
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