Posted April 11, 2013 by Cooper Point Journal in Features
 
 

Bar Owner Champions Medicinal Marijuana Use


Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill in Lacey, Washington is among the few of its kind. Though at first glance it may seem like a run of the mill dive bar, Frankie’s provides a glimpse of what could be the future of marijuana use.

Torched hash pipes and sparked joints are transforming the familiar scene for regulars alike. What was once a bar for middle-aged men, sipping on Bud Light while watching the latest NASCAR race, has now turned into a hub of curiosity and media attention.

A Gray Area

Up the narrow staircase is the private smoking room, a bar scattered with pool tables, shuffleboards, old-fashioned stools and neon Chevron gas signs. Taped to the entrance are hasty warnings:“Notice to FOF Members: 2nd Floor Medical Cannabis CBD Use Only, in this Private Room, Under Senate Bill 507.3 Absolutely NO “Pot” Smoking, or Marijuana Smoking that Contains High THC!”

A former construction worker in his mid-60s, bar owner Frank Schnarr doesn’t fit the clichéd “pot smoker” image. His gold chain, Seahawks hat and leather vest help him assimilate with his customers, many of which he knows personally. A hodgepodge of people around the room took hits off pipes and drags off joints while Schnarr gave short explanations of why each person needs medicinal cannabis.

“I provide a public space under the law,” said Schnarr about his bar that has been attracting attention from the state government and media outlets nationwide.

In 2005, Washington State passed Initiative 901, making all work and public places 100% smoke free. For five years, Schnarr fought this ban on smoking and found a gray area to operate within the bounds of law: private clubs are not held to the Clean Indoor Air Act (I-901).

By paying a daily use fee of $2 or an annual membership of $10, customers can join the 11,375 “Friends of Frankie’s” (FOF) and smoke in the second floor bar.

With the passing of medicinal and now recreational marijuana use laws, this gray area has become even cloudier.

No Stoners

Classic rock music masked the sound of multiple ventilation systems drawing out smoke and pulling in fresh air from above. A faint hint of cigarette smoke hung in the air. Around the main bar only cigarette smoking is allowed out of courtesy for patrons that don’t want to be exposed to cannabis.

For years people have toked out in the parking lot of Frankie’s, Schnarr commented, which meant the bar couldn’t control the cannabis consumption of its patrons. This played a part in his decision to allow marijuana inside.

Just as any bar reserves the right to refuse service to people they deem too drunk, Frankie’s won’t serve someone who appears too baked.
“You can get high on cannabis, but you don’t have to get stoned,” said Schnarr. He doesn’t want people passing out on the floor of his bar from alcohol or weed. His employees are getting educated in how to identify individuals that are inebriated from marijuana in order to help keep people safe.

In Schnarr’s opinion, he feels that weed brings people together and makes for “more of a friendly atmosphere,” unlike alcohol.

The bar hasn’t had any confrontations with the marijuana-consuming patrons. Schnarr estimated that roughly 70% of the people who enter the bar use cannabis and are typically around the ages of 50 to 60.

An Alternative Approach

A half-smoked joint sat in the ashtray next to Chuck Haines, the man behind medical marijuana authorization clinic CannaPath and CannaHealth. Haines has acted as one of Schnarr’s main advisors during the transition to cannabis use at Frankie’s, as a result of his 30 years of experience with marijuana, both recreationally and medically.

In his late 20s, the Evergreen State College graduate was diagnosed with Reiter’s syndrome.

Taking multiple types of opiates to deal with the arthritis pain caused by Reiter’s, Haines realized there was an alternative to popping pills all day. “If I smoked a doobie, I didn’t have to take one of my oxies (oxycodones),” said Haines. He stopped taking the pills and switched to marijuana for medication.

Three years ago, a friend introduced him to medical cannabis authorizations. With a qualifying condition, such as HIV/AIDS, Crohn’s disease, or arthritis, people can get medical authorization and purchase medical marijuana from dispensaries. Haines was charged $250 for his first authorization, and then opened his own authorization clinic with a fee half that price. He wanted medical cannabis to be more affordable for the people who really need it.

CannaHealth’s mission statement says: “We’re here to help you find an alternative to addictive pharmaceuticals for pain management.”

This idea is what drives both Haines and Schnarr’s advocacy for medicinal marijuana.

Schnarr, a self-pronounced record holder of 21 heart artery stints in his body as well as a sufferer of diabetes, has started using hash oils to help with his pain. Opiates are commonly used drugs for pain relief, however the negative side effects of these pills sometimes outweigh the benefits. More and more people have begun to switch to medicinal marijuana as a way to combat pain without the side effects such as nausea, sleeplessness, fatigue and depression.

Not only has medicinal cannabis been used to help relieve physical pain, but has also been utilizaed as treatment for individuals suffering from mental illnesses. Recently, two Iraq war veterans in Oregon testified to the use of marijuana as a way to help cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder instead of prescription drugs.

Education

Stuck to the door of the bar, along with the notification of “medical cannabis only”, is a color-coded chart of cannabinoids in marijuana. It serves as a road map for the inexperienced medicinal users by showing which ailments are relieved by particular active ingredients.

“If you educate yourself, you can educate others around you,” said Schnarr.

Marijuana use education doesn’t stop at the medicinal benefits – or the dangers of driving while high – but in understanding the difference between Senate Bill 5073 and Initiative 502, and the duality of medicinal and recreational marijuana markets.

I-502 passed as a way for the state Liquor Control Board to generate revenue by taxing recreational marijuana sales, while 5073 remains a non-profit market, tailored to the specific needs of patients.

“The recreational market is driven out of profit,” said Haines. Most types of medicinal marijuana have lower levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives the user a euphoric high. “The mass population is going to want high THC. They’re not going to care about the things that just benefit if you had medical needs.”

As things stand, Frankie’s doesn’t aim to attract the recreational crowd.

Haines believes Schnarr ideally wants to create a venue for medical cannabis patients to have a place to socialize, talk about conditions and what’s happening in the community, as opposed to a place allowing anybody to come and smoke weed.

“He’s really looking at more of the medical side,” said Haines. “I don’t think anyone’s doing that yet.”

By Kelli Tokos