WASHINGTON: The owner and two employees of Bellingham-based medical marijuana collective Northern Cross Collective Garden are facing 14 felony charges relating to delivery of marijuana.
The Nov. 12 court date will be two months after the federal government announced it would back off Washington state’s I-502 laws, which allow for the possession and use of a limited amount of recreational marijuana.
That isn’t stopping the federal government from going after medical marijuana collectives, and the city of Bellingham is following suit.
The Bellingham police raided Northern Cross on March 15, 2012, arresting owner Martin Nickerson. The garden was carrying more than the legal limit of marijuana and providing for too many patients, according to court documents.
The raid followed an undercover investigation by Bellingham Police officers, who obtained doctors’ authorizations and entered Northern Cross, taking note of violations of the medical marijuana provision.
The county prosecutor, who is handling Northern Cross’ case, did not respond to requests for an interview.
Nickerson’s lawyer Aaron Pelley sees things a different way.
“We believe we are following the spirit of the law,” Pelley said. “It will be up to a jury to decide if Northern Cross was coloring inside the lines or not.”
The dispute stems from the Washington state law that requires collective gardens to serve no more than 10 patients at any one time and grow no more than 15 marijuana plants per patient, up to 45 plants, to serve these patients.
This argument was used by the city to try to revoke Nickerson’s business license, according to a report by the Bellingham hearing examiner.
The Hearing Examiner said the number of patients and amount of marijuana at Northern Cross in 2011 was “clearly in excess of the number of patients and amounts of marijuana permitted in the collective garden provisions,” according to hearing examiner documents.
Nickerson and Northern Cross acknowledge that Northern Cross has exceeded these limits. Northern Cross has served almost 10,000 patients since its opening in 2011, Nickerson said, but the law doesn’t explicitly prohibit that.
“The law does not specify how many collective gardens you can have at one address,” Nickerson said, saying the Northern Cross does not operate as a single garden, but a series of gardens to treat the number of patients they have.
Northern Cross is working within the confines of the law to treat as many patients as they can, Pelley said. The way they see it, people are only patients of Northern Cross while they are on Northern Cross property, Pelley said.
Nickerson is disappointed with how the city is targeting medical marijuana businesses instead of “pursuing issues that really matter,” citing prostitution rings on Samish Way that Nickerson said police aren’t doing enough about as an example.
“It’s a waste of taxpayer dollars on another level,” Nickerson said.
Northern Cross is also facing an intellectual property suit from High Times magazine, after Northern Cross put on a “Cannabis Cup” competition. High Times claims “Cannabis Cup” is their intellectual property.