Left in the lurch by a gubernatorial veto, the Seattle City Council this week will begin attempts to license and regulate the growing medical marijuana industry here.
Earlier this year the state Legislature passed a medical marijuana bill, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed most of it. The governor said she worried the legislation put state workers at risk of federal prosecution. Evergreen State voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 1998. Washington is one of 15 states which allows marijuana use for medical purposes, but the federal government does not recognize any medicinal use for cannabis.
On Wednesday at 2 p.m., the City Council's Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee will consider an ordinance from Councilman Nick Licata establishing rules for medical pot shops. They would have to obtain a business license, pay taxes and fees and meet city land use codes.
They would also be subject to the requirements of the city's "Chronic Nuisance Property Law," meaning if there are repeated complaints about activity at the establishments they could face fines or possible closure. The "open use and display of cannabis" would also be prohibited at the dispensaries.
The proposed ordinance also states "The issuance of a business license pursuant... or the issuance of any other permit or license by the City, shall not be deemed as approval or permission from the City of Seattle to engage in any activity deemed illegal under any applicable law, nor shall it constitute a determination by the City that the manufacture, production, processing, possession, transportation, delivery, dispensing, application, or administration of and use of cannabis engaged in by the licensee or permittee is either legal or illegal under state or federal law."
City Councilmembers have said for weeks that they'd have to address the medical marijuana question after state legislative efforts failed. The bill that passed in Olympia was designed to set clearer regulations on medical marijuana use and to establish a licensing system and patient registry to protect qualifying patients, doctors and providers from criminal liability.
Gregoire vetoed provisions of the bill that would have licensed and regulated medical marijuana dispensaries and producers. She also vetoed a provision for a patient registry under the Department of Health.
Seattle's mayor and city attorney and King County's executive and prosecutor had sent a letter to legislative leaders, urging them to pass a compromise version of medical marijuana legislation, but that also went nowhere.
Mayor Mike McGinn, Executive Dow Constantine, City Attorney Pete Holmes and Prosecutor Dan Satterberg have previously said that Gregoire's veto of a previous medical cannabis bill "leaves local governments with no clear path forward as we struggle to balance three priorities: public safety; the need of qualified patients to have safe access to medical marijuana; and law enforcement's need for clarity."
By CHRIS GRYGIEL, SEATTLEPI.COM STAFF
Published 11:32 p.m., Sunday, July 10, 2011
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