IN THE SAME WEEK that Canada dramatically liberalized its laws on marijuana, allowing people with chronic illnesses to grow their own pot, smoke it, and even obtain it directly from the government, the city of Seattle cracked down on the local co-op that serves a similar purpose.
Green Cross, which supplies marijuana to some 1,500 patients who have a recommendation from their doctor, was closed this week due to a "cease and desist" order sent to the facility by the city's narcotics commander.
"For the last couple months, there have been police officers around here hassling my patients," says Joanna McKee, who runs Green Cross out of her home in Highland Park. "The local officer asked to look in my garage. I said, 'No.'"
McKee believes her activities are protected under the state's Medical Marijuana Initiative, passed in 1998, which exempts patients and "persons who act as primary caregivers" from prosecution. Dan Satterberg, chief of staff to King County prosecutor Norm Maleng, argues that by the government's reading of the law, "each primary caregiver must have only one patient"—not 1,500. Says Satterberg: "She interprets that as McDonald's serving only one burger at a time."
Officials have not told her to shut down the operation, he says; "We're just saying we don't agree with her interpretation, and she may have to make it in court if she continues to operate in a flagrant manner." Satterberg maintains that McKee "has been operating outside of the law ever since the law was passed." Complaining neighbors were the apparent impetus for the current crackdown. "There's an awful lot of traffic, people going in at all hours," says Satterberg.
But not everyone in the neighborhood seems to object to McKee's operation. Arleyne Stover lives in a neat blue house just across the alley from where Green Cross patients enter the back of McKee's home. "You see all kinds of people, old ladies, kids," says Stover. "I don't have any problem with it. These are sick people. They shouldn't be judged."
Mark D. Fefer