After extensive conversations with medical marijuana dispensaries, patient advocates, health care providers and community interests, Mayor Ed Murray’s Office of Policy and Innovation has drafted a proposed ordinance that would govern the production and sale of medical marijuana products in the City of Seattle.
“We want to strike the balance of protecting patients, ensuring access to medical marijuana and responding to concerns about the location and density of dispensaries,” said Murray. “We know the state legislature will be considering bills this session, but in the absence of a state framework, Seattle must act.”
The state Liquor Control Board (LCB) regulates the production and sale of recreational marijuana, but there are not similar regulations for medical marijuana. Even if the legislature addresses the disparity in the 2015 legislative session, a new system regulating medical marijuana is unlikely to be in place until 2016.
Councilmember Nick Licata, who spoke at last week’s Medical Marijuana Symposium added, “I look forward to reviewing the Mayor’s proposed ordinance and working with patients, industry representatives, and community members to pass legislation that addresses concerns being addressed to my office.”
Dispensaries and patients continue to express concerns that without a more solid regulatory framework, the city’s medical marijuana patients and providers remain at risk for stepped-up federal law enforcement.
In the draft ordinance announced Monday, the Mayor’s Office is proposing a regulatory license for medical marijuana collective gardens and processors. The license requires a criminal background check for operators. Collective gardens would be required to validate authorizations for medical marijuana with the issuing health care provider. The license also requires testing of marijuana for THC levels, molds, pesticides and other impurities.
The ordinance would require dispensaries to be 500 feet from child care centers, schools, parks and similar facilities. To avoid concentration of dispensaries, collective gardens with storefronts must also be 1000 feet from other storefront collective gardens.
Only collective gardens with storefront locations would be allowed to offer delivery services to qualifying patients. To protect unintended use by juveniles, marijuana edibles would face packaging restrictions that prevent the use of cartoon characters or mimic known brands.
Collective gardens with a limited membership and no storefront would also be subject to the regulatory license. These operations, however, would not be subject to the same zoning or testing requirements as collective gardens with storefronts.
All recreational marijuana businesses licensed by the Washington State Liquor Control Board would be required to obtain a regulatory license. However, no new regulations will pertain to these operations as they are already highly regulated.
Penalties for violations of the ordinance could include license suspension or revocation, and fines from $500 to $2,000 for repeat violations within a one year period. Distributing marijuana to minors and adults without valid authorization would incur heavy civil penalties. In addition, there will be penalties for operating as a collective garden or processor without a regulatory license.
“The City of Seattle has always been forward-looking on this issue. I applaud the city on its efforts and this proposed ordinance is definitely step in the right direction — a step towards regulation,” said John Davis of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics.
Murray has directed his staff to continue to reach out to community interests to refine this draft in the coming days. Written comments can be submitted at www.seattle.gov/mayor.
Murray intends to send a proposed ordinance to the City Council by the end of the year.