An operator of a medical marijuana collective says he may have to continue selling pot illegally even after the Drug Enforcement Administration told him to close up shop.
Douglas Gerdes, owner of The Only Natural in Ballard, received a letter from the DEA notifying him he's violating the federal law by selling an illegal drug within 1,000 feet of a school.
"I have patients that depend on the medicine I provide for them. They're all in this too and if I just walk away, then they lose everything," says Gerdes.
He explains to KIRO Radio's Jason Rantz that medical marijuana patients contribute to his operation to keep it running.
"The people that come here give me donations to keep the lights on," he says. "These are people that are sick or can't afford to buy lights, or don't have the know-how to grow, so it's a total collective garden model where everybody puts in and I basically am their care provider."
He says the operation does not make a profit and contributions just cover the costs to operate. "We pay our rent and we don't have anything left, then we go ahead and just start over. We're sort of caught in the middle. We can't get out and we can't go anywhere."
According to KING 5 Gerdes appears to be operating legally under Washington's dispensary law. Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, also tells KING 5 there's no state or federal law stating how near a medical marijuana collective can be to a school.
Gerdes says he's following the rules and doesn't think marijuana operations should be pushed out to the fringes. He thinks close proximity to the community and authority is a better situation.
"I really believe these places need to be more engaged in what's happening in our communities," Gerdes says. "Instead of hiding cannabis, it should be transparent, and closer in proximity to the city instead of out in the alley or down around the corner where it's out of sight. Why not have more oversight of it?"
Gerdes says he's absolutely willing to go to jail to keep serving the patients.