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Kent medical marijuana collective gardens operator stays open despite city ban
Charles Lambert has no plans to close Evergreen Association of Collective Gardens in Kent even though the city's new ordinance to ban medical marijuana collective gardens went into effect Wednesday.
"My attorney and I plan to fight all the way," Lambert said during a phone interview Wednesday. "If they want to charge me, charge me. Then we can get it into court and let the court decide who is right."
The City Council voted 4-3 on June 5 to adopt the ban because it believes the businesses violate federal law that lists marijuana as an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. State law allows medical marijuana use but council members decided the state law remains unclear about distribution of the drug and doesn't want any medical marijuana businesses operating in Kent.
Deryck Tsang, owner of Herbal Choice Caregivers, closed his medical marijuana business because of the new ban, according to a store employee who answered the phone at the store. Tsang did not return a message for a comment about the decision to close the second of just two collective gardens operating in the city.
"They closed because they have small children and we already have criminal cases (from last year) against us," Lambert said. "They can't afford more criminal cases. I'm single and this is what I do."
The city charged Lambert and Tsang in August with misdemeanor crimes for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, criminal attempt – possession with intent to deliver marijuana and criminal attempt – delivery of marijuana and conspiracy. That case has yet to be resolved.
Deputy City Attorney Pat Fitzpatrick said in an email that "those who operate medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens are well aware that their activities have been unlawful for months due to the (two-, six-month) moratoriums, and are well aware of the permanent zoning ban that goes into effect (Wednesday).
"It is our hope that those who operate marijuana businesses in Kent will respect the lawful decision of the City Council and cease their activities," Fitzpatrick said.
And what if Lambert continues to operate?
"In the event Charles Lambert continues to blatantly disregard the Kent City Code, the city will consider pursuing any and all legal options, including civil action and criminal charges," Fitzpatrick said. "A decision in that regard will be made in the coming days."
As of Wednesday, Lambert said he had not heard anything from city officials.
"I'm waiting," Lambert said. "I know they will do something. I'm not sure what that is. I'll find out which option they pick."
Fitzpatrick said the city will decide soon what action to take if Lambert stays open.
"I imagine we'll make a decision sometime next week on how to proceed although it's somewhat of a fluid situation," Fitzpatrick said. "It depends largely if they close down and cease activity."
Lambert opened in June 2010 and said city officials stayed away from his business until Kent Police raided his store last July. The city filed charges in August based on the raid.
"They just want to say 'Get out' and not abide by state law," Lambert said. "They want to re-write state law."
Lambert said he showed a couple of Kent Police officials prior to opening that his operation featured medical marijuana plants grown by patients for patients. He said they had no issues against that.
"It's no drug cartel or run by the Mexican mafia or the Italian mafia," Lambert said. "It's just patients helping patients."
Lambert said he will fight the ban all the way to the Washington Supreme Court.
"I'm prepared for it," he said.