Through the legalization of medicinal cannabis and later recreational cannabis, there grew a need for patients and adults to have a safe and easy way to access the life-saving herb.
The solution: marijuana dispensaries, or, more aptly named, cannabis dispensaries.
A cannabis dispensary is a store that specializes in legally selling cannabis products and accessories.
There are two types of dispensaries:
- Medical Dispensary – medical-grade cannabis where a medical prescription or medical card is required to purchase. You obtain the prescription/card through your doctor.
- Recreational (or Adult-use) Dispensary – A location where you can purchase weed available to anyone over the age of 21 that presents a valid state I.D.
Depending on where you live, some states allow the sale of medicinal and recreational cannabis at the same location.
Timeline of Medical Cannabis Legalization and Access to the Medical Cannabis
In 1979 the Washington Court of Appeals recognized a medical need for people to possess cannabis and allowed some patients access to medicinal cannabis. However, they left these patients with no legal way of obtaining it.
In the 1990s, cannabis buyers’ clubs and cooperatives began providing the drug to patients in several cities through dispensaries that were being operated in defiance of state and federal law. However, these dispensaries were rarely targeted by law enforcement.
In 1998 a law was passed in Washington that allowed physicians to recommend medical marijuana to patients with qualifying conditions. Although the law did not explicitly allow dispensaries, many were established and often ignored by law enforcement. By 2011 there were 75 storefront dispensaries in Seattle and 55 in Spokane.
That same year, the state legislature passed a law that would have provided a legal system for state-licensed growers, processors, and dispensaries, but Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed it.
In 2003 Seattle passed an initiative making adult marijuana possession the lowest priority of law enforcement agencies in the city.
In 2009 the U.S. Attorney General declared that the Drug Enforcement Administration would end its raids on state-approved marijuana dispensaries and that they would not prioritize the prosecution of legal, medical marijuana patients. However, if a dispensary is deemed to be marketing and selling marijuana for profit unlawfully, it will continue to be an enforcement priority.
In 2011 United States Attorney Michael C. Ormsby ordered all dispensaries operating in Spokane and other cities in Washington to cease operations. Most complied, but several owners refused to abandon the people who depended on them to receive their medicine.
In 2012, Washington became the first U.S. state to legalize recreational cannabis for adults. However, cultivation, sale, and even gifting of cannabis remained illegal, and the laws regarding medical marijuana remained unchanged.
In 2013 the United States Department of Justice stated that it would not interfere with state-level legalization if the state strictly regulated distribution and sales.
On July 8, 2014, the first recreational cannabis store in Washington State opened to the public.
Now that we have a brief rundown of the legal timeline of medical marijuana and dispensaries in Washington, let’s take a look at Lance Gloor’s case.
Lance Gloor, a south Puget Sound resident, was the operator of 4 dispensaries distributing medical marijuana.
He became interested in the medical marijuana industry when he heard about its beneficial capabilities for people in need.
After seeking legal advice, he decided to start Washington State Legal and provide safe access to patients in need of medical cannabis. He also helped his community by taking part in local food, clothing, toy, and school supply drives along with holiday meal giveaways, helping locals with their monthly bills, and even funeral costs and medication.
In 2010 the state of Washington started to perform raids on dispensaries they felt were operating illegally. Lance got caught up in those raids, but Washington State, Thurston County, and Lacey’s city dropped all charges against him. However, the Department of Justice did not.
His business partner decided to save himself, plead guilty, and testify against Lance.
Lance did not want to plead guilty to something he didn’t do, so he went to trial. Feeling like he was not wrong, he did not take any of the plea deals offered to him. He wanted to hold firm in his belief that he was performing excellent services to the community and not breaking any laws or harming anyone.
The prosecutor’s defense was that Lance and his business partner opened four illegal marijuana dispensaries and that their claim of being a non-profit was not valid. They created this drug dealer, money launderer persona off a 2010 arrest where when his home was searched; the police found pot plants and a firearm.
Lance’s attorney showed the jury that his dispensaries had business licenses, paid taxes, gave out payroll checks to their employees, had an ATM at their locations, and hid nothing from the local government.
She also argues that other medical marijuana dispensaries in the area operated the same way, and the law singled out Lance unlawfully. She further explained that due to cannabis still being a schedule 1 drug federally, every dispensary in the United States violated federal law. State and federal employees that administer licenses and collect taxes are guilty of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and money laundering. If a dispensary acts lawfully and pays its taxes, they are, in essence admitting to a federal crime and leaving a document trail that the law can decide to use against them whenever they choose.
Washington State Attorney Steve Graham stated the following:
“The truth is that the dispensaries are scared, and no dispensary is likely willing to refuse to pay these bogus sales taxes to the Department of Revenue. The attorney general that works with DOR can simply make a call to the criminal division of the Attorney General’s office to push for prosecution of dispensaries unwilling to pay these “taxes.” No dispensary wants to be the one to stand out and risk criminal charges. To put it another way, the uncertainty in the law makes these dispensaries susceptible to a form of blackmail.”
During the trial, Special Agent Dan Olson with the Drug Enforcement Agency testified that investigators in Western Washington started using a set of criteria to help them decide which dispensaries to target and takedown. First, they focused on large-scale operations, ones near schools and ones that cross state lines.
With that statement, it seemed clear that their intentions were not to stop a “bad man” from doing “bad things” but to pick dispensaries that meet the criteria mentioned above and find ways to prosecute them.
By the end of the trial, a jury found Lance guilty and convicted him of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and manufacture marijuana for medicinal purposes.
On June 3, 2016, he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison plus five years of probation. He has served 6 of the ten years and has a tentative release date of September 3, 2024.
Life After Conviction
While incarcerated, Lance has found ways to make use of his time by completing courses for victims and maximum impact and drug, alcohol education, and rehabilitation courses.
Through his deep compassion for others, Lance has also become a mentor to other inmates, encouraging them to see the positive and find ways to get through the struggle of daily life behind bars.
He has also worked as a Unit Orderly, helped other inmates obtain their GED, and helps to prepare inmates to become productive citizens in society.
Lance appealed his conviction in 2018 but was denied.
If you would like to learn more about Lance or help his fight against this injustice, check out One Team One Dream! – FreeLanceGloor.com or sign his petition on Change.org.
In 2012 the Washington Initiative 502 became law:
the measure shall “license and regulate marijuana production, distribution, and possession for persons over twenty-one; remove state-law criminal and civil penalties for activities that it authorizes; tax marijuana sales; and earmark marijuana-related revenues.”
Since legalizing cannabis, the State of Washington has received roughly $2 billion a year in revenue from the sale of legal cannabis and its accessories. Retail cannabis sales alone have grown 605% between 2015 and 2020.
Currently, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) oversees all licensing and regulation of the state’s cannabis industry.
There are three main licensing tiers in Washington State:
- Marijuana producer – a person licensed by the state liquor and cannabis board to produce and sell marijuana at wholesale to marijuana processors and other marijuana producers. (lawinsider.com)
- Marijuana processor – a person licensed by the state liquor and cannabis board to process marijuana into marijuana concentrates useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products, package and label marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products for sale in retail outlets, and sell marijuana concentrates useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products at wholesale to marijuana retailers. (lawinsider.com)
- Marijuana retailer – a person licensed by the state liquor and cannabis board to sell marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products in a retail outlet. (lawinsider.com)
There is also a marijuana transportation license, but it is constrained. Marijuana Transportation licenses are given out to licensed third parties to transport marijuana, marijuana concentrates, and marijuana-infused products between licensed marijuana businesses in Washington State.
Currently, dispensaries are only allowed to sell cannabis buds, concentrates, infused products, and accessories. In addition, they cannot sell any branded merchandise like t-shirts or hats.