Whidbey Island’s only storefront medical-marijuana cooperative opened five months ago, and business has been steadily increasing.
Now serving about 400 patients, the founder of this nonprofit cooperative says it provides socially responsible and legal access to medicinal cannabis for patients suffering from terminal or debilitating medical conditions.
Founder Lucas Jushinski, 35, is an Iraq war veteran who turned to medical marijuana after painkillers prescribed to help treat injuries he sustained in an explosion left him feeling “like a zombie.”
“Many Whidbey Islanders benefit from the use of medicinal cannabis to treat illnesses such as cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and other medical conditions that significantly impact quality of life, and in most cases cause severe and constant pain,” he said. “Until now, these patients have had to travel to Seattle to obtain this legal medication that is vital to their day-to-day ability to function and survive.”
Jushinski opted for a storefront in unincorporated Island County – Freeland, to be exact – after he was unable to gain approval for his operation within Langley city limits last spring.
Even though he had the support of many Langley residents as well as members of the Langley City Council, the city decided to play it safe and wait until the medical-marijuana issue is resolved at the state and federal level.
With the help of supporters and volunteers, Jushinski prepared the new Freeland retail space for qualified medical marijuana patients. A partition with a security window and a locked door divides the reception area from the medication room.
A security system has been installed, as well as a sturdy safe and refrigeration for cannabis food products, also known as “medibles.”
Since opening last June, Jushinski has added more products, including marijuana breads, butters and olive oil, as well as paraphernalia such as glass pipes.
“We’re already growing, and learning more all the time about patient needs,” said Jushinski. “We’re going to add another medication room in the near future so we can serve more than one client at a time.”
Jushinski also has cloned plant starts for qualified patients, who under the law are authorized to grow their own medication.
Those who have a qualifying condition should first contact their own health-care providers to receive authorization, Jushinski said. Island Alternative Medicine can provide a list of health-care professionals who are not averse to writing prescriptions for medical marijuana.
Authorizations for medical cannabis are good for one year.
Another local resource for medical marijuana authorization is Living Green, a health food and alternative medicine business in Langley, where a doctor visits once a month to evaluate patients for medical marijuana authorization.
At Island Alternative Medicine, patients are not allowed beyond the reception area without photo ID and a medical cannabis authorization statement on tamper-proof paper issued by a health-care professional.
Only one patient at a time can enter the locked medication room. Patients can choose from marijuana varities specific to their condition, and make a “donation” for the product.
Use of medication on the premises is prohibited.
“All medicinal cannabis treatments we offer are organically and locally grown and tested at a Seattle lab for pesticides, mold and mildew,” Jushinski said.
“As a military veteran who has benefitted from medicinal cannabis, I saw an opportunity to not only provide safe access to this treatment for other Whidbey Island community members, but to support the local community through reinvestment of revenues into other charitable organizations and job creation as we expand our services,” he said. “This is my way of giving back to a community I love and believe in.”
Washington is among 16 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized the medical use of marijuana – although the use of marijuana remains in a kind of legal and enforcement limbo.
In the Medical Cannabis law (RCW 69.51) passed by the Washington State Legislature in 1998, lawmakers gave counties, cities and towns authority to adopt and enforce zoning, business licensing, health and safety and business tax requirements for licensed dispensers.
However, state law cannot modify federal laws that make it a crime to grow, distribute or possess marijuana. And federal authorities continue to enforce the prohibition against marijuana, with some recent warnings to dispensaries and a a number of prosecutions.
On the General Election ballot in November is Initiative 502, which proposes to legalize, regulate and tax sales at state-licensed medical-marijuana stores.
Jushinski said he fully intends to comply with state law.
“Island Alternative Medicine is licensed, fully insured, and an RCW 69.51-compliant cooperative committed to safe and legal access, local sustainability and green cultivation,” he said.
The ADA-accessible cooperative at 5565 Vanbarr Place in Freeland is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For a qualified patient who cannot come to the cooperative, Island Alternative Medicine offers delivery services.
Learn more about the cooperative at islandalternativemedicine.com.