Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s office has been working to find a way to properly regulate the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries, but may need to scrap a plan for dispensary permits that was discussed last month during a public symposium. Seattle dispensary owners have waited close to a year for proper regulations so they start adhering to them, but for now the difference between Washington’s unregulated MMJ program and the recreational marijuana market created when voters passed Initiative 502 is stark — and looks to be staying that way a while longer.
In October, the city of Seattle sent 330 letters to dispensary owners, warning that if they didn’t get properly licensed soon, it could warrant a forced shut down. The irony then was that the licenses didn’t even exist yet — now, officials aren’t sure if such licenses will ever exist.
According to Seattle Weekly, one major issue with the mayor’s licensing plan was whether or not the city even has the legal ability to implement a local medical marijuana program that supersedes the statewide program.
Meanwhile, some recreational marijuana store owners have argued that the mayor’s proposed plan would give medical dispensary owners a significant advantage, not having to face the many I-502 restrictions that recreational stores must deal with regarding their location’s proximity to schools, parks, and other places where children gather.
State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles has expressed her own concerns regarding Seattle’s intentions, noting that medical legalization came at the state level and that regulations for the medical market should therefore be addressed by the state legislature. Kohl-Welles has already announced a bill for this session that would integrate the state’s recreational and medical marijuana programs under one system — legislators failed to take action on a similar bill she proposed last year, however, and if it happens again it could mean another year of unregulated madness for Seattle’s expansive MMJ industry.
Whether or not the city succeeds in issuing licenses, Seattle officials will likely issue guidelines of some other kind to offer dispensary owners and other MMJ industry professionals temporary regulations as protection from from city prosecutors until there is some kind of statewide system reform. Even if state lawmakers reach an agreement, however, implementation of the new rules could possibly take another whole year.
Photo Credit: Andrew E. Larsen