In the medical marijuana business, Seattle has determined that there are good guys and bad guys.
Seattle and King County recently sent letters to all medical marijuana businesses, warning them they need to close. Seattle sent two kinds of letters: one to “good guys” who have a good shot at getting a state license, and another to “bad guys” who probably won’t.
King County took a harder line, telling all the dispensaries in unincorporated areas to close.
Chris Cody runs a medical dispensary called Herban Legends in White Center. It’s in a location that could have big consequences for him -- just outside of Seattle.
“Like half a block,” Cody said.
Cody opened in 2011 and that’s crucial – authorities are mostly cracking down on businesses that opened more recently.
He’s paid his taxes and belongs to his local chamber of commerce. He fits the criteria established this year by the legislature for medical businesses that should get new state licenses to sell marijuana.
If he were in Seattle, Cody would likely be considered a “good guy.” Seattle is allowing these businesses to remain open until they can seek state licenses later this year.
But King County is taking a tougher stance against medical marijuana storefronts, whatever their history.
“I was not expecting it, to get a letter. Because we do have a path,” Cody said.
The county recently sent letters to 15 dispensaries, threatening them with forfeiture and prosecution if they don’t close, whether or not they plan to seek a state license. Several of the dispensaries, including Cody’s, had formed something of a cluster in White Center.
“I don’t think they’re trying to be unfair," he said. "You know, I was the first one to open in this neighborhood and then afterwards a lot of other folks moved in because landlords have a hard time renting down here in White Center, and it became something of social negative. I’ve always worked hard to make it a social positive.”
The letters are the latest step in Washington’s attempt to eliminate the gray market of medical marijuana, which has been competing with state-licensed recreational stores.
The Liquor and Cannabis Board hasn’t said how many medical providers it will license, but Cody is hoping to be among them. He says the language of seizure and prosecution gives him pause, but he’s staying open for now.