Judy James, a long-time Federal Way resident, is trying to bring marijuana stores into the city.
The city’s marijuana moratorium was recently confirmed as a full ban, preventing any retailer from selling marijuana inside city limits.
James owns a marijuana store in Puyallup, and her husband and son own several others around the state.
Despite the marijuana ban in Federal Way, she is hopeful that she will be able to bring her business here.
James said she has never experienced increased crimes in areas her family has businesses, and all of her buildings are very well lit inside and out to discourage theft and other crimes of that nature.
The marijuana retailer James owns in Puyallup, called 112th Street Cannabis, looks very unassuming when you pass it on the street. It’s a small red building with a yellow sign and a half-gravel, half-concrete parking lot.
The pungent smell only starts to affect the senses after stepping close to the front doors. Directly inside is a table with at least one employee sitting behind it to check the ID’s of all patrons and answer any questions.
Once inside, it’s hard not to notice the multi-colored assortment of bongs that line the tops of the glass display cases. Inside the cases themselves is an assortment of marijuana products for any of the varying needs customers might have. For those who enjoy smoking, there are plenty of options as well as several different types of edibles. There are also oils and creams for people who use cannabis for dealing with pain from arthritis and other conditions.
One of the store managers, Josh Sawicki, said they get people from all walks of life purchasing products.
“People wanna come and get some weed and kick back with their friends, and some of them want to cure some ailments or find some relief,” he said.
Sawicki added he has not noticed an increase in crime since he has worked at the store.
“Just like any retail envrionment you’re gonna have some customers who are unruly,” he said, “but nothing out of the ordinary.”
He said that as far as unsafe working environments go, he wouldn’t want his wife to work at a convenience store because of the known potential risks involved, but he does not have those same thoughts about working at marijuana retailers.
James said while a lot of the customers are buying for medicinal purposes, there are some customers who shop for enjoyment for types of weed called sativa, which, unlike indica, is known as a head high because it heightens the senses.
“Some people like to use it because it sort of heightens their senses, like if they go out on hikes and things like that,” said James, who has spoken out about her desire to open a marijuana store in Federal Way.
James’ family were never big marijuana consumers before it was legalized in Washington, but they realized the business opportunity and decided to jump in.
“This is an opportunity to get on the ground floor of what might be a really flourishing industry,” she said. “And so we decided to jump in with both feet.”
For those who believe marijuana is a gateway drug, James says it might have been a gateway drug previously, but that has changed with the times.
“When it was obtained through gangs and cartels, it wans’t just people selling marijuana.” She said, “It was people selling marijuana in order to get somebody to come back for a high, then try to get them hooked on something more expensive.”
James said a fair amount of people use marijuana to get off of or stay off of harder drugs, especially opiates.
According to an article on 420 Tours, there is some newer scientific research that shows cannabis can ease addiction withdrawals.
The article reads in part, “According to statistics in drug abuse, in 2011 alone, the thirteen states that legalized medical marijuana had seen a 35 percent decrease in opioid-related deaths.”
In fact, a study done by the American Journal of Public Health found that in Colorado, two years after the state legalized marijuana, there was a 6.5 percent decrease in opioid use, the article reads.
In states that did not legalize the drug, such as Florida, there was an opioid increase of 22.7 percent.
Some Federal Way Council members, such as Dini Duclos, are also looking at marijuana retailers as a potential revenue source for the city. Deputy Mayor Susan Honda also agrees it may be looked at to help bring money into the city, though she personally does not condone using the drug.
“With our financial situation, it’s worth taking a look at,” Honda said.
According to a Forbes article, cities can benefit from having marijuana retailers because of a 15 percent statewide tax on both recreational and medicinal marijuana sales, as well as additional local taxes and fees. States that allow medical marijuana sales see tremendous growth in sales numbers, such as Arizona bringing in over $400 million in marijuana sales, the article states.
That number increases in some states that also allow recreational marijuana, such as Washington state bringing in $1 billion in sales and California at $2.75 billion in sales, according to the article.
Approximately 15 percent of this revenue goes back to programs that curb substance abuse, as well as treatment programs, according to the state Liquor and Cannabis Board. The biggest portion of money though, about 50 percent, goes toward helping the state pay for Medicaid, according to the board.
Despite Washington’s marijuana legalization in 2012, 67 cities had prohibitions or moratoria on retail sales of recreational marijuana as of 2017, according to the state Office of Financial Management’s March 2017 report. This includes the city of Federal Way.
The Washington State Liquor Control Board allows up to three recreational marijuana retail stores in Federal Way.
However, Mayor Jim Ferrell said he does not support bringing retailers into the city limits for a few reasons, including decreasing minor’s access to it and the fact that many residents are also against the idea.
“It’s important to remember that 61 percent of people of this community voted ‘no’ on Advisory Proposition No. 1 back in 2015, a measure asking if marijuana sales would be welcomed in Federal Way,” Ferrell said.
Federal Way is a family-friendly city, and Ferrell said he wants to keep it that way by keeping marijuana retailers out.
“As the father of an 11-year-old, my wife and I are concerned about the impact marijuana can have on young people,” he said. “I believe a majority of this community is equally concerned about this issue as well.”
Though the City Council can overrule this ordinance banning marijuana retailers, Ferrell said he would seriously consider his veto power if that decision was made.