(Updated with additional information from a Seattle Times report)
The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night voted 6-1 to adopt an interim zoning moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries until the Washington State Legislature addresses what some say are inadequate rules governing the possession and sale of the drug under the state’s medical marijuana law. The moratorium will expire in six months.
Councilmember Steve Bernheim voted against the measure, stating he believed it was unnecessary as the dispensaries are illegal under state law anyway.
While Initiative 692, passed by citizens statewide in 1998, makes medical use of marijuana legal, it did not provide a legal way for patients to acquire the drug. As a result, patients either have to grow it themselves or have another person grow it for them for free. A third option is to purchase medical marijuana through dispensaries — essentially storefronts that provide marijuana to those who have a doctor’s note authorizing them to possess it. Such dispensaries are not allowed under state Department of Health rules, but law enforcement in some jurisdictions are tolerating their existence.
Edmonds City Attorney Scott Snyder and Police Chief Al Compaan told the council that the zoning moratorium will give the city some time to see whether the state Legislature will act to address the issue. At least two bills have been introduced in the current legislative session, Snyder said.
Compaan cited the “underground element” that has infiltrated some dispensary operations, resulting in raids on facilities that have large amounts of marijuana and cash on hand.
“Until or unless the Legislature provides some structure to this whole thing, there’s not going to be any consistency across the state in how this issue is approached,” Compaan added. “It’s because of the lack of consistency, the lack of what I feel is some needed regulation, to protect law enforcement, to protect the community, to protect city and county government from claims and lawsuits, as well as to protect legitimate patients, we are going to be in an untenable position.”
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, who is currently being treated for lung cancer, said she was voting for the moratorium, even though her doctor has given her the option to use medical marijuana. “At this point I cannot support it (obtaining marijuana through a dispensary), although I may need it, because the dispensaries in our area right now can’t even get a business license to do it,” she said.
Edmonds currently has one operating medical marijuana dispensary in Firdale Village.
In a story from The Seattle Times, an online news partner of My Edmonds News, Gurkran Grewal of Everett asked the City of Edmonds earlier this month for a business license to open a dispensary, Green Star Collective. While the city considered the request, police noticed that that there was a second dispensary, Sativa Medical Group, that had been operating without a business license in the Firdale Village shopping center since October.
Sativa has a state business license but has not applied for a city license, The Times said.
Edmonds Fire Marshall John Westfall told the Council Tuesday night that fire officials routinely visit all new businesses, and when it visited Sativa they observed several fire code violations, noting that Edmonds code-enforcement officers found several violations.
“I’m supporting this because I think it will at least make it a clear definition for the City of Edmonds,” said City Council President Strom Peterson. “But I will continue working on this issue. I think that medical marijuana is an important issue for this community, for everyone around the country. Right now the state just hasn’t given us the tools to do it right.”
In other action, the council:
– Had a lengthy discussion about a proposal by the Edmonds Community Solar Cooperative to lease the roof of the Frances Anderson Center for the purpose of installing a solar demonstration project. So far, the project has 12 cooperative members who want to invest in the demonstration, which calls for installation of a 75-kilowatt solar system on the roof of the downtown building. Some issues raised by council members included how the roof installation might effect the Frances Anderson Center’s recent designation as a historic building, and what financial risks the city might face, as well as any financial rewards it could receive. In the end, the council voted 5-2 to send the matter back to city staff so that additional questions could be answered.
– Approved a resolution opposing Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to create a Regional Washington State Ferries District that would result in partially shifting the state’s responsibility for operating the ferry system to local communities. Noting that residents statewide already support the ferry system through the gasoline tax, such a district would essentially tax people who live near the ferries twice, said Stephen Clifton, the City of Edmonds Economic Development Director.