In the economically-depressed small towns of the Inland Northwest, local political leaders and the chambers of commerce all live for the day that a new business will come to town. But when a local woman opened a medical marijuana dispensary in Kettle Falls, Washington, her idea was not well received. Many in this small, Stevens County town of 1500 people encouraged the city council to deny the dispensary a local business license. The dispensary was started by Ginny Thiede, a former employee of Spokane dispensary Club Compassion. Ginny Thiede apparently started her endeavor by explaining some of the basics to local residents. “People who want to use it recreationally will have to go somewhere else,” she said, “This is not a head shop.” The Kettle Falls dispensary opens in a time of some uncertainty for Eastern Washington dispensaries. Last month, everyone was watching the outcome of the Scott Shupe trial in Spokane. Shupe was convicted of running a medical marijuana dispensary in Spokane. The jury didn’t accept his version of the law that he was simply acting as a caregiver to one patient at a time. While the Shupe case seems to set a bad precedent, many other dispensaries in Spokane are using better forms that provide greater clarification as to their roll to patients. One of the problems with running a dispensary is that the views of local prosecutors vary greatly. For example, the Stevens County prosecutor stated in his blog that: “Marijuana dispensaries are illegal, whether they have a business license or not.” However, the elected prosecutor from King County has stated that he believes dispensaries are legal and necessary. The Obama administration has taken a hands-off approach to marijuana dispensaries that comply with state law.
In the rural parts of Eastern Washington, sick patients face greater obstacles in obtaining marijuana. Ginny Thiede is providing a valuable service to patients.