Kent city attorney files misdemeanor drug charges against medical marijuana business owners

The other shoe finally dropped.

Kent City Attorney Tom Brubaker filed charges Wednesday in municipal court against the owners of two medical marijuana businesses.

According a city release, the city filed “five drug counts (each) in violation of state law” against Deryck and Colamba Tsang, owners of Herbal Choice Caregivers at 19011 West Valley Highway, and Charles Lambert, owner of Evergreen Holistic Center at 204 Central Ave.

The release went on to state, “Considered misdemeanor crimes, all are being charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, criminal attempt - possession with intent to deliver marijuana and criminal attempt - delivery of marijuana and conspiracy.”

Lambert and Tsang reopened July 25 after the city closed their businesses July 6 stating they were violating state law.

An arraignment is scheduled for the three at 8:45 a.m. Aug. 10 at Kent Municipal Court.

The City Council approved an emergency six-month moratorium July 5 against medical marijuana collective gardens and dispensaries.

The city served search warrants July 6 on four medical marijuana businesses in Kent, closing three, Evergreen, Herbal Choice and Suzie Q’s at 19435 68th Ave. S.

Sun Leaf Medical Center was not closed according to owner Justin Vance because the business has medical personnel who prescribe marijuana, but there is no cannabis at the business.

According to Lambert, his attorney, Douglas Hiatt, advised him he could legally reopen as a collective garden.

The legal morass the medical marijuana businesses and the city are fighting through occurred when Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed portions of the Legislature’s bill allowing dispensaries and collective grows for medical marijuana.

Brubaker advised the council to pass a moratorium because of the ambiguity created by the governor’s veto.

According to Lambert, Hiatt’s advice to him was the portion of the Legislature’s bill that was not vetoed and went into effect July 22 allowed collective gardens.

As of Wednesday, Lambert was still operating in what he described as an “access point for collective gardens.”

Tsang could not be reached for comment, but Herbal Choice was open Tuesday.

Mayor Suzette Cooke said in the city’s release, “Today’s charges are in response to our findings of the investigation and search we did in July, after which our council passed a moratorium prohibiting any medical marijuana dispensary or collective garden. These operations were operating illegally then, and are operating illegally now. I took an oath of office to uphold the law. I can’t knowingly allow illegal activity to occur in this city.”

In an interview July 25, Lambert described his operation as a site where people growing plant come to Evergreen with marijuana and paperwork.

According to Lambert, up to 10 people with proper paperwork could access marijuana from 45 plants for medical reasons. Lambert said at least three must be growing and seven can join each garden.

As of July 25, Lambert, who is running for the Kent City Council, said he had 30 community gardens set up at Evergreen.

Philip Dawdy, who worked with the Washington Cannabis Association, said Tuesday by phone the cities of Ellensburg and Mukilteo passed ordinances allowing collective gardens with regulations. Shoreline also passed a measure regulating collective gardens and collective garden centers.

Dawdy said Seattle wrote the most sweeping laws allowing “medical cannabis facilities as long as they follow standard operating procedures for businesses.”

The News Tribune reported Tacoma passed a temporary ban on medical marijuana businesses Tuesday, but the city promised not to close existing facilities.

The Maple Valley City Council passed a one-year moratorium on marijuana collective gardens and dispensaries July 11.

The Covington City Council will be considering a recommendation from the Planning Commission concerning dispensaries and collective gardens.

The commission recommended the council pass a one-year moratorium on the establishment and continuance  of collective gardens and dispensaries.

There is one dispensary operating in Covington.

The issue will go before the council Aug. 9.

The city’s release noted the action Wednesday is “the latest step in a process that began nearly one year ago when the city first became aware that these individuals were operating marijuana dispensaries in Kent. After repeated warnings from city officials that their operations were illegal, the City Attorney’s Office delivered cease and desist letters in early June, notifying the marijuana dispensary owners they must close or face the loss of their business licenses and potential criminal charges.”

The moratorium  issue is scheduled to go before the Economic and Community Development Committee in September. Council President and committee chair Jamie Perry said the committee plans to look at the options prepared by the staff and hear from public before a decision is made regarding regulations and zoning of medical marijuana facilities.


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