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How their garden grows: Preston’s Kind Alternative medical marijuana collective keeps expanding
It’s mid-afternoon on a Monday, and things are quiet outside the cluster of businesses along High Point Way in Preston. No one is parked at the Subway, and only a car or two are at the Shell Station. It’s quiet, inside, too, until about a half-dozen cars and people stop in at the storefront on the end, the Kind Alternative.
They’re gone almost as soon as they came, but those cars and people have had a powerful effect on at least one shop in this small community.
Just months after opening its doors last March, the Kind Alternative in Preston expanded, hugely, and with hardly a growing pain.
The medical marijuana collective moved to a new space in the same complex, tripling in size. It added a vivid storefront and a range of new products from teas to tinctures, and it just opened a companion business, the Goin Glass Lounge, for which they have high hopes.
While other facilities like the GreenLink Collective in Issaquah are being hindered by city moratoriums, and some outside of city limits are struggling, the Kind Alternative simply had to expand, it had so many patients.
“We were unable to support ourselves over there,” says Shane, a collective member of the old location. “The waiting room was full, we had people lined up outside.”
He is overwhelmed by this good fortune, and by the support he feels from all of the Snoqualmie Valley.
“We’ve never had anything bad come out of the community, there’s been no specific incidence of crime,” he said. “I’ve still only had one person… that was not for us being here.”
At the Shell station, however, manager Sung Kim has heard from a different section of the community.
Some of his customers were not happy about the arrival of Kind Alternative last spring. They worried about what their children would be exposed to, and potential crime.
“Nobody liked it,” Kim said, “but the landlord, it was their decision.”
Landlord Y & J Development owns both the Kind Alternative’s former site and its new one, and Shane said they have always welcomed the collective, since before it opened in March. The landlords are currently out of the country, and could not be reached for comment.
Community concerns about crime so far have been unfounded, however. Neither the Kind Alternative nor the King County Sheriff’s Office report a growing trend in crimes in the area, and a series of recent home burglaries in Preston appears unrelated.
Speaking from personal experience, Kim said “I haven’t noticed anything myself, but I’m kind of worried about (crime).”
Security is a priority at the Kind Alternative. Members often used aliases in working with patients, and no marijuana or cash was kept in the old storefront overnight. Today, the group has a built-in security system, as well as security staff.
The greater security is needed now since the supply of marijuana on hand is larger. Under the state law revised in last spring’s special legislative session, the Kind Alternative is operating as a collective garden. These cooperatives can have up to 10 members, with enough marijuana on hand for their needs, limited to 45 plants, and up to 72 ounces (4.5 pounds) of dried flowers.
Keeping within the legal limits can be a challenge, Shane admits. It’s illegal to sell marijuana, even in the collective, but the Kind Alternative can request donations for product, and those donations can include plants, dried flowers, or other marijuana products from members. They sometimes have the opposite problem, too, running low on the drug. However, Shane said they can usually call another member to fill their needs on short notice.
“We’re just helping coordinate people and their collective gardens,” Shane said. “We’re just providing a meeting place for people, really. If they have excess medicine, they can leave it here. If they have certain needs, they can get it here. If they need certain information, we provide it. If they need help in any area, we try to assist them.”
The Kind Alternative currently works with five referring doctors, he said, and with other clinics. If a patient needs something that they don’t have, he’s happy to refer them to another collective that might have it. “We’re not afraid to send somebody away from us. We’re here to help people. It’s not about the money,” he said.
The Goin Glass Lounge opened about two weeks ago next to the collective and will have a grand opening on Saturday, Oct. 29. In front, there’s an ATM, and a glass shop selling a variety of glass pipes, many made by patients.
Behind the glass shop is a plush lounge, with warm colors, overstuffed furniture, and a bar, but only for patients of the collective. To get past the swinging doors, visitors must show their valid physician’s recommendation for using marijuana medicinally.
Once in, patients can enjoy the relaxed atmosphere, or self-medicate, using one of the table vaporizers to smokelessly incinerate their drugs and inhale the vapors. Smoking is not allowed in the lounge, but vaporizers enable patients to inhale the drug, still the most effective delivery method. There is also a “bud-tender” on duty to help patients with the vaporizers.
“Is that even legal?” wonders Kim, who’d heard that the Kind Alternative was opening a smoking lounge. Smoking marijuana in the lounge would be illegal, Shane says, because smoking anywhere indoors in Washington is. Vaporizing, though, is smokeless, and therefore perfectly legal.
It’s healthier, too, claims, bud-tender Danielle. “A lot of doctors say, if you’re going to do it, this is the way to go.”
Eventually, collective members hope to use the lounge for support groups, classes, or just to meet with patients and help them determine if medical marijuana will work for them. They’ve also considered accupuncture and massage demonstrations, and other programs focused on patient care.
These goals will keep Shane busy, but that’s fine with him.
“It’s overwhelming, both good and stress related,” he said. “I’d never think that we’d get this much support. It’s more than I ever imagined, really.”