Councilmember Clark left office on April 14, 2015.
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Medical Marijuana Zoning


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“They’re popping up like Starbucks!”

That was the take from a patient in the waiting area of one of the dozen medical marijuana shops I surveyed the Monday of Labor Day weekend. (And, no, “surveyed” does not mean “patronized.”)

Councilmember Nick Licata and I have been working with staff from the city’s Department of Planning and Development and with a group of medical marijuana advocates and shop operators to devise a set of City rules for this burgeoning business area dwelling in on odd legal twilight between federal law (“illegal under any circumstance – no, really, we’re serious”) and Washington voters (back in 1998 we said we believed patients should have access to marijuana).

As anyone who walks, rides or drives the city can tell you, medical marijuana seems to be booming business. In my unscientific drive of Rainier Valley I found 11 or 12 shops between Rainier Beach and South Dearborn Street. Watch for the green crosses and the big MMJ letters.

On the Sunday I checked them out and walked into a couple, plenty were open and I observed a mix of people inside and out. You walk into a small waiting area and talk initially with a staff person behind an enclosed counter about your order. No huge crowds. Some people who, frankly, looked unwell. Other people, well, maybe they were picking up for a sick relative.

Cities including Seattle have been hoping to get guidance from the state about what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to the production, processing and provision of medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the clarity train has derailed each of the past two sessions. We know collective gardens are the preferred form for access, but that’s about all we know. In the meantime several cities in the state have instituted moratoriums prohibiting the establishment of medical marijuana collectives.

In Seattle we have not instituted a moratorium, electing instead to regulate. The idea is to issue a business license for a collective (or dispensary or access point or shop or whatever we’re calling it now), like we have now for more than 150 collectives, and hold the business to community standards like any other business.

To that end we have a draft set of zoning regulations:

http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/Planning/CannabisZoningRestrictions/default.asp

that addresses the potential off-site impacts of larger-scale cannabis-related activity.  The bill would accomplish this by limiting the level of activity allowed in single-family and multifamily residential zones,  small-scale business areas, and  areas with historic character (such as the Pike Place Market or Chinatown/International District) to what the State allows in a single collective garden.  In these areas, the amount of cannabis that could be grown, sold, or processed would be strictly limited, whether this activity is part of a business or is located in a dwelling unit   The rules would also clarify the maximum size of any indoor  cannabis growing or processing  operation that wants to set up in industrial zoning. Otherwise, a shop could try setting up.

I say “try” because there are some other considerations, like, to repeat, this is an illegal activity in the eyes of federal law enforcement, with special attention paid if a shop sets up within 1,000 feet of a school and if the shop simply has too much supply on hand. And let’s be honest, there’s no way there’s enough legitimate medical access business to support 11 or 12 shops in Rainier Valley in addition to all the other shops setting up in the city.

 Councilmember Licata and I will be visiting a number of community council and District Council meetings this fall to talk about the proposed rules. I hope to see you at a meeting.

Comments

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Comment from Tim
Time September 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm

You seem to be forgetting that even an experienced M.D. might have trouble telling that someone is “ill” without performing an actual exam on them. This is especially true in the of the chronic disorders for which the MMJ law is designed and being used by patients. I have severe chronic pain that has until recently handicapped my ability to be as active and I’d like to be and work as much as I’d like to work. But you wouldn’t know that from just looking at me.

Furthermore, although it may be true that there was a marked increase in new dispensaries several months to a year ago (really post Obama’s letter to U.S. Attorneys regarding respect for state MMJ laws), I would argue now that they are being closed down by the Feds “like hotcakes.”

Finally, the indecisiveness by the state and local authorities about how to properly regulate these businesses only increases the risk of people taking advantage of the system, since this legal black hole has made folks in traditional medical clinics totally uncooperative with patient’s who seek and legitimately need medical marijuana to be vibrant and contributing members of our society.

You contribute nothing to the solution by shooting from the hip with your own un-scientific pontifications about the subject. I expect better from a City Council member.

Comment from Tim
Time September 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm

Additionally, the prevalence of dispensaries in a particular area of the city does not itself indicate a surplus of authorized patients who don’t properly meet the guidelines of the law. Some areas of the city have virtually no dispenseries, while others there is a glut in other areas. This is the natural consequence of NIMBY activism in affluent areas, the cost of real estate, and a total lack of guidance from local authorities in the form of land-use and licensing regulations on the subject.

Believe it or not, but I think everyone is looking to local authorities to craft a regulatory framework that will appease all stakeholders, including the Feds. There are more busts lately in part because the state and local authorities have abdicated their role, due in large part to their own foolish notions that by regulating on the subject and having the government issue licenses, they create criminal liability for themselves and state/city employees.

Comment from Tim
Time September 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Some with likely respond: “Look here! We have draft regulations!” This is too little, too late, and reflects what I see as deliberate feet-dragging on the part of a City Council that has too many issue-dodgers like you on it.

Comment from Apartment for rent
Time October 2, 2012 at 1:09 am

The bill would accomplish this by limiting the level of activity allowed in single-family and multifamily residential zones, small-scale business areas, and areas with historic character (such as the Pike Place Market or Chinatown/International District) to what the State allows in a single collective garden.

Comment from Dompetas
Time December 2, 2012 at 10:17 pm

In my place, such as marijuana use as needs. It’s a big problem for people. Because, most of them are young people.

Comment from http://greensidemedical.com
Time February 17, 2013 at 4:52 am

Well, so long as medical aspect is preserve, I don’t think this will bring any harm to the society…

Comment from Apartment for rent in SaiGon
Time March 29, 2013 at 9:15 pm

In my country many young people use marijuana. That too bad!

Comment from Vietnamtravella
Time May 15, 2013 at 11:20 pm

Use marijuana will lead to social decadence. It’s really dangerous alert for young people

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