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Licenseless pot dispensary owner left in a grey area by Washington state

Any medical marijuana dispensaries that don't get one of the 334 licenses could get shut down under a bill to require patients to buy their cannabis from the same stores selling to recreational users. (AP Photo/File)

Here's a businessman who may be one of the casualties of the new pot law: "I quit my $20,000 a month job selling automobiles, working in the auto industry, and jumped into this industry."

Scott Zanotelli was never into marijuana, but when the economy tanked in 2008, he and his brother Mike opened a medical marijuana dispensary. It took awhile, but they finally started making money.

"I just started taking a paycheck for my own business, just this year to make sure that this business would be successful," Zanotelli told KIRO Radio's Ron & Don Show. "And it is, and we're doing very, very well. We'd like to do even better, but we've kind of just been left in this giant grey area, where at some point, the state is going to come in and take this away from us."

The uncertainty comes from the new pot law. Zanotelli needs one of the 334 commercial licenses. Applicants were ranked by lottery on Friday. But Zanotelli was told he couldn't even enter the lottery because his location was considered too close to a school or public park.

Even though he's been operating without a problem for six years, he could now be shut down.

"Me and my brother, we're not just some street corner drug dealers that opened up a store. We're business men. We're smart business men. We can bring something to this industry and bring tax dollars to this state that could be unrivaled by anyone else around. So we kind of feel betrayed," Zanotelli said.

He's not the only one.

Any medical marijuana dispensaries that don't get one of the 334 licenses could get shut down under a bill to require patients to buy their cannabis from the same stores selling to recreational users. It's a move that would ostensibly bring unregulated dispensaries under the rule of law.

According to Zanotelli, it's just a money grab for the state.

"Washington state is seeing dollar signs and they're pushing it forward regardless of any fairness about this whole thing in the first place," he said.

If nothing changes in Olympia, Zanotelli thinks he will probably have to close both of his businesses by next May, which he said will be devastating to his family.

So he started exploring his legal options.

"How do you give someone a business license? I pay taxes to the state of Washington, and now you guys tell me, 'you don't get to have a business anymore, we're going to give it to these other people?'"

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About the Author


Dave Ross hosts the Morning News on KIRO Radio weekdays from 5-9 a.m. Dave has won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for writing five times since he started at KIRO Radio in 1978.

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