Visiting a Washington’s Farmers Market After Living in Prohibitionist Utah

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Tucked behind a nondescript storefront on Pacific Avenue, between Larchmont and Parkland, near Lakewood, Washington and McChord Air Force Base, sits what might come as a surprise to some. Others find this place to be a lifeline.  It is a community of growers, caregivers, vendors and patients who work together to provide safe access to a “Farmers Market” of sorts. However, it is far more than just a market.

Set up in a swap meet style, you can find at least 25 different vendors on any given weekend at Vincere’s Compassion Club (located at 10625 Pacific Avenue S in Tacoma, Washington) with tables placed around the perimeter and in the center of a large warehouse style room, displaying their wares with pride.  From top shelf flower to hash, concentrates to soaps, bath bombs, candles and pretty much any edible you can dream of, this market offers it all in one spot.

It is a different vibe from February of this year when a raid took place at the same location (while it was under the control of a different owner/management). DEA and Pierce County SWAT Officers entered the premise in February, guns drawn, forcing patients to the floor and confiscating their medicine.

At that time, according to KOMO News,officers from the Pierce County Sheriff, Tacoma Police and the Liquor and Cannabis Boardspent eight hours at the market”, in search of illegal drug activity. People with outstanding warrants got arrested, and everyone present faced the confiscation of their cannabis. There were no illegal drugs found, although all of the medicine was confiscated and never returned.

This information was confirmed during my recent visit to the Club on November 4, 2018 when I met with both the new owner (Mr. V.) and Manager (Ms. D.), who were very open discussing the matter.  With a lot of work, time and dedication, they were able to restore the club (after purging the prior management) and its original mission to serve the best medicine for patients in Pierce County.

Before discussing the actual club and it’s mission, however, it is important to understand how and why the club came to be, starting with the implementation of medical marijuana in Washington back in 1998 when I-692 was initially approved by Washington voters.  Subsequent changes such as defining a 60-day supply in 2006, the Ogden Memo in 2009, an increase of who can authorize in 2010, and SB6073 in 2011 did provide guidance healthcare practitioners authorizing medical marijuana, patient protections, and the ability to form collective gardens.

Then came the legalization of recreational cannabis.  In 2012, I-502 was approved to allow recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 years of age and older.  According to the Washington Department of Health, hallmarks of the legal marijuana market include:

  • Taxation
  • Product restrictions
  • Serving size limits
  • Testing and labeling requirements
  • Seed-to-sale tracking

Following the “recreational legalization craze” of Colorado and Washington in 2012, the Justice Department released the Cole Memo. The memo, entitled “Guidance Regarding Marijuana Enforcement” essentially “rests on the expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems.”

It basically stated that, given its limited resources, the Justice Department would not be involved in the enforcement of federal marijuana prohibition in states that “legalized marijuana in some form and implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana.”  The memo was rescinded under the Trump administration on January 4, 2018.

In 2015, in an attempt to align the medical and recreational markets, the Washington Legislature passed the Cannabis Patient Protection Act (SB 5052) and Marijuana Taxation Reform (HB 2136).  SB 5052 created a regulation for the medical use of marijuana, with specific requirements of patients,a standard authorization form , a single system of licensed production, processing and retail sales as well as consistent testing, labeling and product standards (which went into full effect 7/1/2016).  In 2017, SB 5131 was passed, which allows authorized patients and designated providers who are entered into a medical marijuana database and hold a “recognition card” to purchase immature plants, clones or seeds from a licensed producer.

The Compassion Club was reformed and re-opened with a new owner and management July, 2018 with the idea of growers providing medical cannabis directly to patients in the form of a Farmers Market, and it continues to serve patients and caregivers with clean, safe, and accessible medicine.

I was impressed with the location (clean, plenty of good parking, and security), quality and variety of the vendors, and products, as well as the management. I have always been treated with professionalism, from my first visit as a brand new patient in July, upon relocating to Washington, to now, as a writer.

This club has it all together.  From someone to assist with parking, to security and check-in, a single gal or handicapped person can feel safe and confident walking in as long as she is armed with a valid Washington State Identification or Driver’s Licenseand a completed Authorization Form for Medical Marijuana.  I was fortunate to discover The Healing Clinic Washington when I was researching how to obtain my card immediately upon moving to Washington.

I was able to obtain a same-day appointment, which happened to fall on my 51st birthday, and it took all of 20 minutes.  I was able to access my medical records securely, with HIPPA compliant processes, via their computer system with a little help from the receptionist.  I next met with my provider who assessed my conditions (click here for a list of Washington qualifying conditions) and wrote out a full authorization, including the right to grow 15 plants (click here for current authorization form requirements).

After my quick visit, with my new authorization and valid Washington drivers license in hand, I quickly headed to a nearby dispensary, finding myself at Mary Mart on 6th Avenue in Tacoma where I received my photo identification “green card” and made my first purchase as a legal medical patient.  It was quite a birthday, one which will not be forgotten soon, even with my brain injury.

The card is not required for entry into the club, although is rather handy and just kind of cool to have, in my opinion, and I always keep mine right next to my Washington drivers license.  You don’t even need to be 21 as there is no age limit, but patients under 21 do need a provider. There is no use in the building during market hours.

I was fortunate to spend time with three vendors on my visit, the first of which was with the first person I ever purchased a home-crafted edible from in Washington, Lori Powers, the “Green Goddess,” who is renowned for her cheesecake.  She also offers candies, lollipops, chocolates, flower, vape cartridges, and vegetable glycerin infused tinctures. Cheryl Storer is also a happy face to see at the Green Goddess booth, and I look forward to a return visit, if for nothing else than the wonderful conversation and warm hugs.

I also chatted with Shawn McCracken who has been a local grower since 2011 and vendor since 2013.  He and his wife,Crystal Larsh, earn their entire family income from the market by offering homemade edibles, candies, and nuts as well as high-end flower and oil (made via a closed loop system).  Shawn spoke of his wish to better integrate I-502 with medicinal cannabis and had many interesting and plausible ideas, such as getting state insurance to pay for medicinal cannabis, much like what Canada is implementing.  He also mentioned how critically important it is to help patients by offering them a clean alternative to killer opioids and confirmed the “family vibe” I was receiving from the group.

It really feels like these vendors care deeply about their patients, far more than profits, as evidenced by Shawn’s pet project, Official.Hush420, responsible for canna-family events such as the upcoming Thanksgiving celebration “CannaFam Thanksgiving,” this Friday, November 16, 2018.  You must be 21+ to attend; DM Offical.Hush420for additional details.

Meeting the Bubble-UpGirlz, a fabulous mother-daughter  duo who create both infused and non-infused handmade soy candles and tartlets, skin care and bath bombs, Bubble-Up Baby”, , “Bubble-Up Guyz”, andBubble-Up Petz” all from top shelf flower (family grown), as well as products such as pre-rolled joints, wax, RSO, and capsules was the best way to close out my visit for the day.

These two spunky ladies are cheerful and full of great energy.  They are the kind of women you would want to be neighbors with or even a part of you family, again, going back to the family vibe of the club.  They were so kind as to gift me with a soy cherry-vanilla candle, which I, in turn, gifted to my daughter after a hard week, trying to “pay it forward.”

That theme seems very prevalent throughout the market, with the free samples, information, and hugs.  It is important to remember the Club provides more than medicine; it gives patients a safe, secure place to obtain their medicine directly from growers, to socialize, and to participate in the canna-community as a whole.  It also provides much needed income for the vendors, many of which rely solely on the proceeds from their weekend sales to provide for their families. It is critical it remains in place and continues to be a safe haven where respect and understanding reign. I think I am in love with Vincere’s Compassion Club, plain and simple, as it feels I have met and been welcomed in my new home town by my new tribe, and I want to thank them sincerely for that.