Marijuana shops waiting to open in Kelso and Castle Rock

Kelso and Castle Rock may get the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Cowlitz County, depending on the outcome of the Legislature’s battle with the governor about the state’s medical marijuana law.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has threatened to veto a measure the Legislature adopted Thursday that would create a system for licensing storefront dispensaries and grow operations and protect some patients from being arrested.

Meanwhile, Kelso has received one business license application for a dispensary, and Castle Rock has received two, including one from a couple who will address the Castle Rock City Council on Monday night. The rush to establish dispensaries is related to a provision in the proposed legislation: If dispensaries established under the measure are not registered with the state by May 1, they will be illegal until 2013.

Mandy Henderson and her partner Kirk Kightlinger have taken out a year lease on a storefront at 105 Allen St., just across the parking lot from Kelso City Hall and the police station, in hopes they could open a dispensary next week. They’ve shared their plans with nearby businesses and received any negative response, said Castle Rock couple.

Kightlinger, 48, said he wants turn a historically black market industry into an above-board business.

“Hopefully with 100 percent accountability, the stigma will go away. … We want to set the standards,” said Kightlinger, who has been using medical marijuana for three years due to back injuries acquired from years of construction work and laying hardwood floors.

“We feel that it’s time and the market is already there. People are already doing this,” he said.

He and Henderson, 50, want to create a safe, comfortable place for patients to obtain pain relief and learn about cultivating marijuana and alternative methods of ingesting it. Henderson, who said she has never used marijuana or any illegal drugs, just wants to help people. She prefers the term “Compassionate Care Center” rather than dispensary.

“We’re here to share knowledge and compassion and try to get this product in the realm it needs to be,” Kightlinger said.

Thursday, they met with Police Chief Andrew Hamilton and Mayor David Futcher to discuss their plans.

“There’s really no way you can let that happen under current law,” Futcher said Friday.

But if the governor signs the bill, Hamilton said, “We’ll have to see what the law is. … We’re going to look at any business and evaluate it and make sure they’re complying with the law. I don’t care what they’re selling.”

If the law doesn’t pass, Kightlinger and Henderson, who already have invested $20,000 in the business, said they’ll have to find another use for the shop.

“We’ll cease and desist and pack up. And we’re not able to help our community,” Kightlinger said.

Two permits pending in Castle Rock

Julian and Melissa Robinson of Castle Rock will speak to the council Monday about what they plan to call The Healing Hand of God patient resource center. Initially the couple plans to open an information center and clinic that would provide a doctor who could write medical marijuana prescriptions – legally called “recommendations.” The couple also wants to open a medical marijuana dispensary if possible and say it would be a clean, well-regulated business.

“This isn’t something with pot smoke coming out the front door or people loitering outside,” said Julian Robinson, a medical marijuana patient for five years for chronic back pain. “It will be very clean and professional.”

The council does not approve business license applications, but the Robinsons said they wanted to let officials know their plans. Right now they plan to open in the city’s downtown hub on Cowlitz Street West, but Robinson said he’s willing to discuss other locations.

“We’re not trying to come in and bull dog the whole town,” Robinson said. “We’re trying to have a real nice impact on town.”

City Attorney Frank Randolph said he’s waiting for the outcome of the legislative battle before researching the city’s next step.

In addition, Charles Gilbert IV of Toutle has applied to open Puffin Organics LCC in a mini mall off of Huntington Avenue North. His application states the business will include indoor gardening supplies, a patient exchange co-op and a dispensary.

Gilbert could not be reached for comment Friday.

The Castle Rock City Council meets at 7:30 p.m. in the Castle Rock Senior Center, 222 Second Ave. SW.

Medical marijuana has been legal in Washington since 1998, when voters passed Initiative 692. However, dispensaries are not legal. Authorized patients are allowed to possess a 60-day supply of pot, grow small numbers of plants and trade pot with one another.

Wednesday, Centralia police raided Lewis County’s first medical marijuana dispensary, Hub City Natural Medicine, seizing pot and arresting a shop volunteer for possession and dealing.

Dispensaries are legal in Oregon, however. On April 1, Staypuff Organics opened in Rainier, the first medical marijuana dispensary in Columbia County. Customers must carry ID and an Oregon Medical Marijuana Program card, available only from doctors or osteopaths.