How Marijuana Dispensaries Thrive In a Gray Market

Source: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images

Source: Theo Stroomer/Getty Images

Like it or not, marijuana is headed your way. Cannabis, following a long and troubled past with prohibition, is finally starting to be legalized in small pockets around the country through a variety of voter and government actions. While the federal government is still holding fast to all-out illegalization, states around the country are chipping away at marijuana laws to the benefit of local economies and even law enforcement professionals.

Thus far, Colorado and Washington are the only two states to have passed voter initiatives fully legalizing marijuana for recreational use. While there are still some caveats to the law, the benefits have been immense. Colorado has been raking in huge tax revenues since sales first started around the beginning of the year, and Washington, although lagging behind in the implementation of retail sales, is set to keep up. Both of these states had robust medical marijuana industries prior to full legalization, making the transition a bit easier for citizens. While the industries and laws vary from state to state, the basic premise of medical marijuana dispensaries, along with collective gardens and the donation system, work generally the same.

It’s through these systems of collective gardens and donations that medical marijuana dispensaries have been able to open up legally and thrive, serving the sick and needy of their respective constituencies. Naturally, there are those who abuse the system, using the medical loophole to simply get their hands on cannabis products for recreational use. But the medical marijuana industry plays an immensely important role in the lives of many. For many, cannabis products and their derivatives are the only thing that supplies relief to people suffering from cancer, chronic pain, anxiety, and countless other issues.

As a resident of Washington state, I’ve had the chance to check out dozens of local medical marijuana access points and speak with the individuals who own and operate them. Most run through a legal loophole which allows ‘collective gardens’, in which multiple medical marijuana patients, who are allowed to grow or possess a certain number of plants or weight in dried product, to come together by pooling their resources. Turning these collective gardens into a non-profit business is tricky, but by walking a fine legal line, it can be done.

Here is an inside look at how many of the medical marijuana access points in Washington, specifically the Seattle metro area, operate.