Stinky thinking in Federal Way | Andy Hobbs

Earlier this month, I strolled along Dumas Bay in search of Federal Way’s foulest odor and came up short.

Seaweed accumulates each summer on the beach and in the water. The slimy green stuff piles up and emits that classic rotten egg scent as it bakes in the sun. Last year, the city secured a grant to monitor the seaweed and research its growth. Stay tuned for a report this summer when the seaweed arrives in full force.

On that recent day at Dumas Bay, I sniffed away at the beach’s briny breeze as my boots crunched broken shells and sloshed through the mud. Aside from Dumas Bay in the summer and the pungent flowers that bloom outside City Hall, Federal Way lacks a truly stinky spot — and that, dear reader, is a blessing.

Consider that in neighboring Tacoma, the first impression of that city for thousands of people is the so-called “Aroma of Tacoma.” On warmer days, drivers along Interstate 5 encounter a smell that sometimes resembles frozen vegetables in a dirty diaper. For a deeper whiff, drive around the tideflats and the Port of Tacoma.

In Federal Way, most complaints about stenches seem to be metaphorical: the traffic cameras stink, the city’s code enforcement stinks, the hooker hotels on Pacific Highway South stink, etc.

And for some city leaders and residents, medical marijuana dispensaries stink.

During an appeal hearing this week regarding a rejected business license for a medical marijuana dispensary, a veteran Federal Way police officer testified that he could smell marijuana when delivering a letter to Conscious Care Cooperative.

“In my experience as a police officer,” he told the hearing examiner, “I’m familiar with what marijuana smells like.” The officer said he smelled a “green marijuana smell” rather than the smell of burning marijuana. It should be noted that patients cannot consume or burn medical marijuana at the dispensary.

State lawmakers are working on clarifying the legal gray areas surrounding dispensaries and the people who use them. In a news release this week, King County Prosector Dan Satterberg cited the recent armed robbery at a West Seattle dispensary as proof that legislators need to establish clear guidelines for medical marijuana, including regulations for security to protect both patients and neighborhoods from criminal violence.

Like it or not, the issue of marijuana — for medicinal and recreational purposes — has reached a tipping point in the state. Legitimate patients need a safe place to get their medicine, and dispensaries fill that void, even as some misfits treat the dispensaries like speakeasies. As society moves into uncharted territory with marijuana, there is a tendency to fear the worst, even as the stigma surrounding cannabis slowly erodes.

When it comes to Federal Way’s marijuana dispensaries, the part that truly stinks is the ignorance surrounding the turning tide.

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