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Two Kent medical marijuana dispensaries reopen as collective gardens

Charles Lambert displays dried marijuana July 26 at his reopened Kent business called Evergreen Association of Community Gardens. - CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter
Charles Lambert displays dried marijuana July 26 at his reopened Kent business called Evergreen Association of Community Gardens.
— image credit: CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter

The medical marijuana issue took another turn on the tangled legal road it is following when two of the three Kent facilities that were closed July 6 opened Monday, July 25 as collective gardens.

Charles Lambert, owner of Evergreen Holistic Center at 204 Central Ave. N., reopened as the Evergreen Association of Community Gardens.

Deryck Tsang, owner of Herbal Choice Caregivers at 19011 West Valley Highway, also opened Monday. Tsang said during a phone interview Tuesday, "we were already a collective garden, so there was not much of a change."

Jessica King, owner of Suzie Q's at 19435 68th Ave. S., said Tuesday by phone she decided not to reopen.

"I'm trying to be respectful of the city of Kent," King said. "I'm trying to abide by what Kent is asking."

King said she did not want to reopen until the city decides on the "rules and regulations. Until then I don't want to get into trouble."

Sun Leaf Medical Center was listed by the city as a medical marijuana dispensary and the fourth business where a search warrant was served, but owner Justin Vance said his business was never closed.

"There has been some confusion about my company," Vance said. "We have no medicine whatsoever. We have doctors, but no cannabis. The city did an investigation, since we have no medicine whatsoever we were not shut down."

Vance said he has doctors who prescribe medical marijuana. According to Vance, Sun Leaf has medical doctors, most are pain management specialists, who prescribe medical marijuana, along with naturopaths and nurse practitioners.

The city sent a letter to the four businesses June 3 stating they were operating illegally and to cease all activity regarding the dispensing of medical marijuana.

The City Council passed an emergency six-month moratorium July 5 on establishing medical marijuana collective gardens and dispensaries. The vote was 5-2 with Council President Jamie Perry, council members Deborah Ranniger, Ron Harmon, Les Thomas and Debbie Raplee voting yes and Councilman Dennis Higgins and Councilwoman Elizabeth Albertson casting no votes.

A July 19 public hearing on the moratorium drew hundreds of medical marijuana supports to City Hall. Nearly 20 people spoke at the hearing in support of allowing the medical marijuana facilities to reopen in the city.

The tangled web the city and medical marijuana supporters are caught in came about when Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed portions of a bill passed by the Legislature allowing dispensaries and collective grows. Kent City Attorney Tom Brubaker pointed to the ambiguity in the law for the city following the veto in a findings document for the moratorium.

"Because the governor vetoed 36 of 58 sections of the Legislature's bill amending Chapter 69.15A RCW, the law, in its final form, understandably has inconsistencies and ambiguities. For example, certain sections that were not vetoed make reference to other sections that were vetoed."

Lambert said Monday based on the advice of his attorney Douglas Hiatt, the new law that went into effect July 22 after the governor's veto allows collective gardens.

"Under the new law I am the access point for collective gardens," Lambert said.

Those people growing the plants come into Evergreen with "their paperwork and medicine," Lambert said. He stated up to 10 people can access the dried marijuana for a community garden of up to 45 plants.

"You have to have at least three people growing," Lambert said. "Seven people can come in and join the garden."

Lambert said there are "no pot plants growing in there (the Evergreen site on Central Avenue)."

According to Lambert, Evergreen is now an access point for community gardens and he is no longer operating as a dispensary. He said he is able to make enough money as a community garden to keep the doors open and pay salaries.

"I believe what is right is right," Lambert said. "All the hysteria and fear. I don't get it. I was allowed to operate for a year and then this. I've always had an open door policy with the police."

Lambert said by Monday there was 30 community gardens set up to use Evergreen as the access point. He admitted he was concerned about what the city's next steps will be.

Tsang said he was prepared to take the risk if the city takes legal action against his business.

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