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Seattle Times coverage of pot policy, culture and lifestyle.

July 17, 2014 at 3:54 PM

Winterlife pot delivery goes all medical

In Wallingford, a driver named Wombat sells cannabis product to a woman named Shannon, Mon., Jan. 27, 2014, in Seattle. (Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

In Wallingford, a driver named Wombat sells cannabis product to a woman named Shannon, Mon., Jan. 27, 2014, in Seattle. (Photo by Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Winterlife, Seattle’s most prominent illegal pot delivery service, will no longer serve customers who are not qualified medical-marijuana patients.

Winterlife’s phone message today said that “due to current legislation” the company is “undergoing changes to protect customers.” When the company, closed today and Friday, reopens Saturday it will only deliver to customers with medical-marijuana authorizations, according to its message.

Winterlife gained local and national media attention for boldly selling to customers who were recreational users and for the animal pseudonymns assigned to its drivers. Winterlife’s business model was brazenly illegal, but it filled a void of sorts. Although pot became legal in Washington in December 2012, the first legal pot stores — the only places where adults can purchase weed legally in Washington — didn’t open until this month. Until then, wannabe consumers were in limbo — legally they could possess and puff, but there was no way for them to get legal pot.

Enter Winterlife and other services such as Raccoons Club, who deliver in Seattle. While they were technically committing a felony through delivery, Winterlife was not prosecuted. A Seattle police spokesman compared the company to a driver “doing about six miles over the limit on the freeway.” They were banking on not getting busted because their crime didn’t appear violent or egregious, spokesman Sean Whitcomb said.

Winterlife also claimed it would not serve minors and that it dedicated a portion of its income to a nonprofit animal-rehabilitation center in Kent.

But once legal pot stores opened in early July, the question loomed if police and prosecutors would clamp down on illegal delivery services because they were competing with stiffly taxed state-regulated stores.

“Enforcement is not hard. You just have to commit to it,” said Alison Holcomb, chief author of Washington’s legal weed law and criminal justice director at the ACLU of Washington.

Whitcomb refused to answer the question today if the change in Winterlife’s business model was precipitated by a police investigation or other city pressure.

“We’re heartened to see they have abandoned that illegal business model,” Whitcomb said, adding that perhaps Winterlife got different legal advice than it had before. It’s also not legal to deliver medical marijuana.

A call to Winterlife was not immediately returned. But earlier this year, a company founder and owner, Evan Cox, said Winterlife planned to transition to a legal pot business.

Comments | Topics: Alison Holcomb, i-502, marijuana

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