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Second Kent medical marijuana collective garden opens

A second medical marijuana collective garden store has opened in Kent.

Charles Lambert opened South King Holistic on Jan. 1 on the West Hill. Lambert previously operated Evergreen Association of Collective Gardens before closing the store along Central Avenue in August after he received a letter from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration threatening to shut him down because the business sat within 1,000 feet of a school.

"I'm not within 1,000 feet of a school, daycare or playground and I'm where my patients are," Lambert said in a phone interview.

Lambert's new store is at 2824 S. 252nd St., just east of Pacific Highway South.

"This is where my patients are," Lambert said about reopening in Kent. "People have been around here since the beginning. There's a need for it."

Lambert opened his Central Avenue store in 2011.

The Kent City Council voted 4-3 last June to ban collective gardens 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 the city.

Washington Supreme Court Commissioner Steven Goff granted a temporary stay Dec. 5 that lifted the city's ban on medical marijuana collective gardens. A King County Superior Court judge on Oct. 5 had upheld the city's ban.

Deryck Tsang, who owns a Kent medical marijuana collective garden, joined several other plaintiffs to request a stay to the order. Tsang reopened his Herbal Choice Caregivers business along West Valley Highway in North Kent after Goff's ruling. Tsang had closed his business after the Superior Court ruling.

The state allows medical marijuana use by patients who may participate in collective gardens. Tsang's lawsuit challenges the city's ability to employ a zoning ordinance to prohibit medical marijuana collective gardens within all of its zoning districts.

King County Superior Court Judge Jay White upheld the city's authority for the outright ban. Tsang's request for a stay was based on delaying enforcement of the ban pending review of the Superior Court decision by the Supreme Court.

Any ruling by the Supreme Court is expected to be months away.

"I hadn't heard," Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke said when told about the opening of South King Holistic.

Cooke supports the council's ban.

"The council still has in place a moratorium on medical marijuana distribution," Cooke said. "Where we go from here will be determined on what facts we find."

Cooke said she's uncertain if Lambert can open under the temporary stay order issued by Goff. City officials also have concerns about whether businesses are operating as collective gardens.

"The gamesmanship with the distribution of marijuana has made any definition of collective gardens a travesty," Cooke said. "It's where one minute you can walk in and buy the product and they then discontinue membership the next moment so they can continue to turn the members. That is a distribution not a collective garden."

Lambert said he follows the collective garden rules as well as the DEA rules to not be within 1,000 feet of a school.

"When I was within 1,000 feet of a school and they (DEA) asked me to close, I did," Lambert said. "It didn't mean I was going to stay closed."

Lambert said city officials stated they would follow the new state law that allows personal use of marijuana. He said he wishes the city also would allow collective gardens.

"The city can't pick which laws it chooses to follow or not to follow," Lambert said. "I can't see why they have trouble with it. I hope we can build a relationship to not have to keep fighting because it causes turmoil for patients."

Cooke said the city stands by its ban against medical marijuana dispensaries.

"I don't know what type of operation he (Lambert) has," Cooke said. "But there's still no legal way to distribute."

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