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McGinn signs law regulating medical marijuana shops

By admin | August 3, 2011

McGinn signs law regulating medical marijuana shops

Medical marijuana dispensaries will be regulated in Seattle like any legal business under a new law signed Wednesday by Mayor Mike McGinn.

The law requires medical marijuana shops to obtain business licenses, abide by building codes and follow public-health regulations. For example, they would have to obtain food permits if they sell marijuana-infused foods such as cookies.

They also would 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. However, it does not create a special license for medical cannabis dispensaries.

The City Council unanimously passed the ordinance to an attempt to provide some clarity in city law after legislation that would have legalized and regulated pot dispensaries at the state level was mostly vetoed by Gov. Chris Gregoire earlier this year .

“Prohibition does not work,” McGinn said during a ceremony of City Hall. “I wish I could say that the action we’ve taken will provide complete clarity to the public, the law enforcement personnel and to medical marijuana patients, but it does not. We are in a time of transition, and because of a conflict between state law and federal law, the law creates an interesting situation.”

The governor said she worried the state legislation, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, put state workers who woulat risk of federal prosecution. Evergreen State voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 1998. Washington is one of 15 states that allows marijuana use for medical purposes, but the federal government does not recognize any medicinal use for cannabis.

Seattle’s ordinance is about providing safe access to medical cannabis for patients and promoting public safety.

“The goal is to make sure people don’t have to buy their medicine from the drug dealers,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes.

But complying with city law won’t protect dispensaries from investigations or raids by the the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, Holmes said. Federal authorities have given no assurance they wouldn’t prosecute if a dispensary was licensed.

The only safe harbor is for patients who is authorized under state law to use marijuana is to grow their own.

“When you get beyond that, we’re all in a gray area,” said Holmes, who has joined former U.S. Attorney John McKay in backing an initiative that would legalize and regulate marijuana in Washington state.

“Ironically, the patients who need it the most can’t grow it themselves,” he said

Under the new state kaw, “collective gardens” are permitted where no more than 10 patients can grow medical marijuana. The law limits each person to 10 plants per person in the garden. No garden can have more than 45 plants and 72 ounces of dried product.

City Councilman Nick Licata said the council soon will take up legislation regulating where collective marijuana gardens can be. The city wants to ensure that larger collective grow operations don’t wind up in residential areas. The new regulations would not affect licensed medical patients who grow pot for their own use.

The public can report problems with medical cannabis facilities to the Customer Service Bureau, the Seattle Police Department, or the Department of Planning and Development, according to the Mayor’s Office.

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