Shaun McHenry is bracing for change. July marked the beginning of the end of Washington's longstanding medicinal marijuana program. As of next July, his business model will no longer be viable — or legal — as medicinal dispensaries must apply for licensing through the state.
"We didn't see that this nasty financial mindset would hack away at our constitutional medical rights," McHenry says. "No one saw the forced shutdown of all medicinal dispensaries in Washington. It's a final effort to get people in the recreational shops so the state can make tax money."
McHenry opened the Eastern Washington Cannabis Market in 2014. The medicinal farmers market is home to nine vendors and serves up more than 100 strains and countless products to more than 3,000 patients.
The one-stop shop gives patients a competitive advantage and helps regulate Spokane's medical cannabis prices, McHenry says. The tight-knit group of vendors will remain open up until the pending legislative deadline.
"All of these vendors are from Eastern Washington," McHenry says. "They basically came out of the shadows from the black market to become a taxpaying business. It's been great to see them given credit and starting their futures and families."
By July 2016, licensed retail stores may apply for a medical marijuana endorsement from the state. Endorsement specifications have yet to be released, and opponents like McHenry fear patients won't have access to CBD and CBN products — cannabinoids almost exclusively used for medicinal purposes.
"I'm fearful from a medical standpoint," he says. "I'm afraid Washington state is headed away from treating marijuana as a medicinal plant. It [weed] is going to become just like Budweiser or Jack Daniel's — just for fun."
McHenry plans to apply for licensing next year. He's focused on keeping local vendors afloat, and deterring patients from buying on the black market. He's become something of a moral officer, working to keep spirits high in uncertain times. Despite his best efforts, he's not always optimistic.
"I hope that future states don't look to Washington," he says. "I hope they look closer to Colorado or Oregon instead to see how they've structured their medicinal and recreational systems." ♦
Eastern Washington Cannabis Market • 953 E. Third • Tue-Sun, 10 am-6:30 pm • 315-9142