|Photo: Steve Elliott ~alapoet~|
A Seattle City Council panel on Wednesday unanimously passed a measure licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.
The ordinance now moves to the full City Council for consideration on Monday, July 18, reports Chris Grygiel at the Seattle P.I. But prior to the vote by the Housing, Human Services, Health and Culture Committee, one attorney told the council members that the ordinance won’t stand up in court.
“I want to applaud the City Council for taking a look at this matter … unfortunately I must urge you to reconsider your proposal,” said activist/attorney Douglas Hiatt, who said he represents medical marijuana patients. “Go back to the drawing board. I do not believe there is any way you can pass your ordinance will stand under the law. The state’s controlled substances act pre-empts the field … Marijuana is still illegal … It’s illegal for all purposes, you cannot regulate an illegal business without a specific authority.”
|Photo: Douglas Hiatt|
|Attorney Douglas Hiatt: “If you pass this, I will take you to court and do my very best to knock it out”|
When Gov. Chris Gregoire line-item vetoed a bill earlier this year which would have allowed medical marijuana dispensaries statewide, she nixed language that would have allowed the Council to pass its own regulations, according to Hiatt.
“If you pass this, I will take you to court and do my very best to knock it out,” Hiatt told the Council.
Earlier this year, the Washington Legislature passed a medical marijuana bill, but Gregoire vetoed most of it, claiming she was worried the law would put state workers at risk of federal prosecution, even though that’s never happened in any medical marijuana state.
Washington has allowed patients with qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana since voters approved it in 1998, but the federal government doesn’t recognize any medicinal use for cannabis. The bill that passed in the Legislature was intended to set clearer regulations on dispensaries, establish a licensing system, and institute a patient registry with arrest protection.
Gregoire vetoed provisions which would have licensed and regulated marijuana dispensaries. She also vetoed the provision which would have created a patient registry under the Department of Health.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn, along with the city attorney and King County’s executive and prosecutor had all supported establishing a legal framework for medical marijuana.
The ordinance before the Seattle City Council, sponsored by Councilman Nick Licata, would require medical marijuana dispensaries to get business licenses, pay taxes and fees and meet city land use codes. The shops would also be subject to the city’s Chronic Nuisance Property Law, which means if there were repeated complaints about their activity, they could be fined or shut down.
The “open use and display of cannabis” would be prohibited at the dispensaries.
Not all people testifying before the Council on Wednesday thought the effort was in vain. A University District resident urged the Council to come up with zoning rules so that neighborhoods like his aren’t “overrun” with dispensaries.