Pubdate: Tue, 07 Feb 2012
Source: Olympian, The (WA)
Copyright: 2012 The Olympian
Author: Jeremy Pawlosk


City Council: Proposal Won't Change Legal Efforts Against Businesses 
That Sell Marijuana

The Lacey City Council will consider a proposed ordinance that would 
establish interim regulations allowing "medical cannabis collective 
gardens" in the city limits.

The proposed ordinance will be considered during the council's 
regular meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday in the council chambers at 420 
College St. SE.

In a phone interview Monday, Lacey City Attorney Ken Ahlf said the 
proposed regulations do not have an effect on the city's position 
that at least one Lacey establishment that currently sells medical 
cannabis - Lacey Cross - does not meet the state's legal definition 
of a collective garden.

The City Council has specifically ruled that Lacey Cross is not a 
"collective garden," under state law when it denied Lacey Cross' 
business license in December, Ahlf added. Lacey Cross has appealed 
its business license denial to Thurston County Superior Court.

According to a staff report to the Lacey City Council that is 
included in this week's agenda:

* The city attorney's office has recognized a need to establish 
interim regulations for medical cannabis collective gardens, because 
of state law that allows such gardens to provide medical marijuana to 
qualifying patients.

* During the period that the interim regulations are in place, the 
issue of establishing permanent regulations regarding medical 
marijuana collective gardens will be referred to the Lacey Planning Commission.

* If the proposed interim ordinance is adopted Thursday, it would 
attach a six-month "moratorium" upon any permit or business license 
application from a collective garden that does not meet the 
provisions of the interim regulation.

* Also, a public hearing on the matter of establishing permanent 
collective garden regulations must be held before the City Council 
within 60 days, if the interim ordinance is adopted.

Lacey's proposed interim ordinance adheres strictly to the 
restrictions placed on medical marijuana collective gardens under 
state law. Those restrictions require a single collective garden to 
allow no more than 10 qualifying patients to participate. 
Additionally, a collective garden "does not contain more than 15 
plants per patient up to a total of 45 plants per garden, and the 
garden does not contain more than 24 ounces of usable cannabis per 
patient and up to a total of 72 ounces of usable cannabis per 
garden," according to Lacey's proposed ordinance.

Under Lacey's proposed interim ordinance, an owner or operator of a 
collective garden must obtain a "Collective Garden Permit," which 
would be awarded after submitting an application to the city 
demonstrating it is in compliance with a number of requirements.

The requirements in the proposed ordinance place limits on a 
collective garden's distance from schools and from other collective gardens.

The staff report to the City Council makes it clear that adopting an 
interim ordinance to regulate medical marijuana collective gardens 
does not exempt persons or entities that sell marijuana from 
prosecution under federal law.

In November, the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force raided five 
Thurston County establishments that sell medical marijuana, including 
two in Lacey.

The two Lacey establishments that were raided - Lacey Cross, located 
at 4227 Pacific Avenue; and Cannabis Outreach Services, located at 
5709 Lacey Boulevard - both reopened. A total of 17 people were 
arrested during the raids; four operators of medicinal marijuana 
establishments were charged with criminal charges related to the sale 
of marijuana.

The operators of Lacey Cross and Cannabis Outreach services have yet 
to have been charged with a crime stemming from the raids. However, 
Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim has said that more 
of the dispensary operators that were arrested in November can expect 
to face criminal charges for selling marijuana.

Tunheim has said that medical marijuana establishments in Thurston 
County cannot expect exemption from prosecution under the state's 
medical cannabis law, because it is still illegal under state law to 
buy or sell marijuana.

Lacey Cross and Cannabis Outreach Services have both been sent 
"cease-and-desist" letters by the city, informing them that they are 
not in compliance with Lacey Municipal Code due to the fact that they 
are operating without a business license.

Ahlf said Lacey Cross and Cannabis Outreach Services have not yet 
been cited with a misdemeanor violation for operating without a 
business license.

Ahlf said Lacey considers Lacey Cross a "dispensary." Dispensaries 
that sell medical marijuana are illegal under state law.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom