Iraq vet plans to start medical marijuana business in Langley
February 1, 2012 · Updated 1:26 PM
LANGLEY — An Iraq War veteran and local community volunteer is making plans to start a medical marijuana business in Langley.
Lucas Jushinski met with city officials last week to outline his plan for a medical marijuana “access point,” which would be located in a low-key facility just outside the downtown area. Langley leaders have been cautiously supportive of the idea, and will hold a special meeting Feb. 15 to gauge public reaction to the idea.
Jushinski, 35, said Monday the business would provide medical marijuana to patients who are legally authorized to use the drug. He said his business would be safe, legal and transparent.
“It’s going to be a very professional, discrete business,” Jushinski said. “I’m not going to have big bud leafs on the windows.”
Jushinski’s time in the Navy set the stage for his medical marijuana venture. He was a hospital corpsman for nearly eight years, and spent four years as a combat medic with the Marines, including a combat tour in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004-2005.
Jushinski said he came home with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, but the long list of medications that were prescribed by Veterans Administration physicians didn’t help.
“The VA and the military had me on a lot of different medications. And in my opinion, they were making me worse, not better,” he said.
“I had to create my own treatment plan that I felt would work for me, and part of that was using medical marijuana,” Jushinski added.
In talking with other war veterans, he found many who were taking the same path to heal — but not through the VA.
“So here is something we’re not allowed to really talk about at the VA, here’s something that helps us all,” he said.
Jushinski, a Freeland resident, had frequently visited Whidbey Island before moving here after graduating from Evergreen State College following his time in the service. His parents moved here when he was in kindergarten, and his mother has owned a home on the island for the last 20 years.
He hopes to set up a medical marijuana “access point” that could assist veterans as well as residents who are suffering from terminal or debilitating medical conditions.
“I want to create a safe space,” Jushinski said. “A space where patients who have medical marijuana authorizations can come and get medical marijuana.
“What I’m trying to do here is to educate people and bring awareness. There’s a lot of veterans here, including myself, who are kind of suffering and dealing with a lot of trauma. And people don’t know they are out there.”
Jushinski noted that Washington’s medical marijuana law has been on the books for 13 years. Dispensaries that have operated outside the law have been raided, he said, but access points operating within the law have remained open.
“There have been access points open that whole time that have been operating in a regulated way, where they are doing everything legally by the state … and they haven’t been shut down and there haven’t been any problems,” he said.
“I’m really just trying to put a face on this business, and alleviate some of people’s fears,” Jushinski added. “I’m trying to be as open and transparent as possible. I don’t want to hide any longer.”
Jushinski said he has already talked with legal growers of marijuana, and has also worked with a business attorney, a criminal defense attorney and a tax attorney to help with his business plan.
Since he moved to Whidbey, Jushinski has immersed himself in community service. He has volunteered at the Good Cheer Food Bank and Hearts & Hammers, and has been a “Big Brother” mentor to a 14-year-old Seattle teen. He has also volunteered with Rise N’ Shine, which supports children whose lives have been touched by HIV/AIDS.
Jushinski said he plans to operate his business, called Island Alternative Medicine, as a nonprofit. Much of the revenue from the business, he said, will be donated to Good Cheer and the Veterans Resource Center.
Jushinski also hopes to find local, legal growers on the island to supply the marijuana, which will be provided to patients for donations of $10 to $12 per gram.
“This is the 21st century and I feel that we need to step into it. Here’s a medicine, an alternative medicine, that helps so many people,” he said.
Langley City Councilman Doug Allderdice said he’s looking forward to a community discussion next month on the proposal.
Allderdice has met with Jushinski and has been impressed with his efforts.
“I have found Lucas to be very forthcoming,” Allderdice said.
“He wants this to be all above board, with lots of notification,” he said.