On Monday, Mayor Ed Murray released a draft of the proposed ordinance that would govern the production and sale of medical marijuana products in the City of Seattle.
The draft came about as the final product of extensive conversations with medical marijuana dispensaries, patient advocates, health care providers and member of the community.
“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.
Currently the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) regulates the production and sale of recreational marijuana, however, there are not similar regulations for medical marijuana.
The state legislature are planning to address this disparity in the 2015 session, however, a new system which would regulate the sale of medical marijuana would possibly not be in place until 2016.
“We know the state legislature will be considering bills this session, but in the absence of a state framework, Seattle must act,” says Mayor Murray.
Seattle dispensaries and patients are continuing to express concern that, without a more solid regulatory framework, that many remain at risk of being charged by federal law enforcement.
As part of the draft ordinance, Mayor Murray is proposing a regulatory license for medical marijuana collective gardens and processors. In order to qualify for the license operators would be required to have a criminal background check. Collective gardens would also be required to validate authorizations for medical marijuana with the issuing health care provider.
The license would also requires testing of marijuana for THC levels, molds, pesticides and other harmful substances.
The draft ordinance would require that dispensaries be 500 feet from child care centers, schools, parks and similar facilities. Collective gardens with storefronts must also be 1000 feet from another storefront collective gardens to prevent a large concentration of dispensaries in the one area.
In terms of delivery services, only collective gardens with storefront locations would be allowed to offer delivery to qualifying patients.
Marijuana edibles would also face packaging restrictions that would prevent the use of cartoon characters or mimic well-known brands in order to protect unintended use by juveniles.
Mayor Murray also proposed that 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.
Under the proposed ordinance, 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.
If the ordiance is put in place, establishments that violate the ordinance could face license suspensions or revocations, and fines from $500 to $2000.
Distributing marijuana to minors and adults without valid authorization would also 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.
Mayor Ed Murray has directed his staff to continue to reach out to community interests to refine this draft in the coming days. Murray intends to send a proposed ordinance to the City Council by the end of the year.
If you have a comment about Mayor Murray’s proposed ordinance submit it online at www.seattle.gov/mayor.