Every Friday since April 3, supporters of Northern Cross Collective Garden have made their voices heard outside the Whatcom County Courthouse, protesting against charges made toward the local medical dispensary in Bellingham. The trial was schedule for Monday, April 20, but has been pushed to Saturday, August 8, according to court documents.
Another protest about this issue will happen on Friday, April 17, from noon to 6:00 p.m. in front of the Whatcom County Courthouse.
Northern Cross has been charged with carrying more than the legal limit of marijuana plants and having too many patients in the collective garden, according to court documents.
In March 2012, Northern Cross was raided by the Bellingham Police Department and owner Martin Nickerson was arrested, according to court documents.
Medical dispensaries can’t have more than 15 plants for their business and no more than 24 ounces of cannabis per patient, according to chapter 69 of the Revised Code of Washington. Bellingham Police Department Lieutenant Bob Vander Yacht declined to disclose how much the Northern Cross went over those limits.
Although the police still are holding the original charges, the garden has continued to stay running, Nickerson said.
Northern Cross was briefly shut down after the arrest because they were exceeding the rules placed at the time, Vander Yacht said.
“There were opportunities where Mr. Nickerson could have cooperated more, but that didn’t happen, which forced [Bellingham Police’s] hand a little bit,” Vander Yacht said.
The protests were not only to get the charges dropped, but to raise awareness about the Northern Cross case, Nickerson said.
Northern Cross is not filled with criminals, instead they serve the sick and dying patients who are seeking medicine for free, Nickerson said.
In addition to the local charges, on Nov. 13, 2013, the Washington State Department of Revenue issued a tax assessment of $6,118.19 to Nickerson and $47,783.42 to Northern Cross Collective Garden, according to court documents.
Northern Cross Collective Garden and Nickerson’s values were assessed, then based upon that assessment the Department of Revenue was able to come up with figures of how much both owed in taxes, Nickerson said.
Nickerson requested a type of ban called an injunction that would prohibit Washington from enforcing tax warrants and taxing controlled substances with hopes the state would stop taxing marijuana, according to court documents.
Nickerson said the state should not be able to tax marijuana that is grown in the collective garden because it is not a business and therefore has no exchange of money.
Zach Anselmi, a patient and volunteer at Northern Cross, explained how customers are continuing to buy from illegal dealers because of the high tax the state has put on recreational marijuana sold in legal stores, which creates a demand for lower-priced marijuana sold illegally.
Ever since Anselmi began volunteering at Northern Cross, he said he has grown to appreciate how the collective garden improves patients’ lives, citing a particular patient who experienced drastically fewer seizures since starting medication.
“Someday one of your own might need this,” Nickerson yelled at passing cars Friday, April 3, echoing Anselmi’s sentiment.
Nickerson said he is confident that when they go to court they will not be convicted due to the support Northern Cross has felt from the community.
“I do not believe when they voted for I-502 that they signed up to put people in jail,” said Nickerson.
I-502 was the initiative passed in 2012, allowing for the recreational sale of marijuana to those 21 and over under taxation and a number of regulations.