Following the lead of other Eastside cities, the Redmond City Council placed a temporary ban on medical marijuana collective gardens to give city staff time to formulate a plan for regulation and zoning.
Council members voted unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting — with the exception of Kimberly Allen, who was absent — to place a six-month moratorium immediately on the location, establishment, licensing and permitting of medical marijuana collective gardens.
The vote comes in response to a new amendment to a 1998 state law that went into effect on July 22 and allows qualifying patients to produce, grow, transport and deliver cannabis for medical use. Patients and their providers can possess up to 15 cannabis plants and 24 ounces of usable cannabis. The law allows up to 10 qualifying patients to organize and form a collective cannabis garden containing up to 15 plants per person and a cap total of 45 plants.
The law also allows jurisdictions to impose a moratorium to allow city policy makers to adopt zoning requirements for collective garden facilities.
There will be a public hearing conducted by Redmond City Council on Oct. 4 to give residents the opportunity to comment on the issue of marijuana collective gardens in the city. The hearing will be at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, located at 15670 NE 85th St., in the council chambers.
Redmond joins Kirkland, Issaquah, Sammamish and Woodinville, who have all placed temporary moratoriums on the gardens or are planning to do so. Meanwhile King County, which has jurisdiction over Redmond’s surrounding unincorporated areas, is taking a wait-and-see approach.
Before moving forward with setting regulations within Redmond, Rob Odle, the city’s director of planning and community development, told the council and mayor that they need to study the impacts such facilities could have on the community.
“We think it’s important,” he said. “In order to do this, it takes time.”
The six-month moratorium gives city staff that much-needed time.
Council member and public safety committee chair Hank Myers added that the moratorium also gives the city a legal base to work off of, so people wanting to start collective gardens have to wait until the moratorium is lifted. Without a moratorium, the city would not be able to prohibit people from growing cannabis because there are no set zoning or permitting standards, according to Myers.
As of right now, Odle said the city has not heard of any interest in the gardens.
“We have not had any inquiries regarding collective gardens at this point,” he said.
MAKING SENSE OF IT ALL
Myers said the moratorium will also give time for city officials to set standards on enforcement of the hazy state law.
Federal law deems marijuana, even for medical use, illegal and in states such as Washington, where medical marijuana is legal, many cities are confused about what this means for them.
Washington Initiative 692, which was passed in 1998, allows people with certain medical conditions to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana, which is 15 plants or 24 ounces of cultivated cannabis, according to the state Department of Health. Under the law, physicians can recommend, but not prescribe, medical marijuana for patients.
In order to clarify, state legislators created a bill that made major reforms to the state’s medical marijuana law during the regular legislative session earlier this year.
The legislation set clearer regulations and established a licensing system and patient registry to protect qualifying patients, doctors and providers from criminal prosecution.
But Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed portions of the bill regarding dispensaries and producers, but allowed collective gardens, as well as a provision for a patient registry under the Department of Health. Gregoire’s reason for the veto is her concern for state workers who could be prosecuted under federal law.
Redmond’s moratorium doesn’t change the state law — qualified patients can still produce marijuana — but it does allow the city time to plan regulations of medical marijuana.
Meanwhile, the King County Prosecutor’s Office is “going to take cases police bring (them)” and determine if the accused is “living by the spirit of the law or are they stretching it,” according to spokesman Ian Goodhew.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg will not prosecute “legitimate patients who qualify under the law if they reasonably adhere to the dictates of the statute,” according to a 2007 policy adopted by the prosecutor’s office.
Myers said the use of collective marijuana gardens is multi-layered.
At the end of May, he attended a conference for the Association of Washington Cities and sat in on a seminar on the topic and said many cities, including Redmond, have similar concerns as the governor because legalizing marijuana goes further than whether you’re for or against the drug.
“There are a lot of ramifications that aren’t on the surface that we’d like to take a look at,” he said.
The moratorium is also an opportunity for Redmond to see how other cities are approaching the issue.
Myers said the city also has to think about how collective gardens could affect public safety. He called marijuana a high-value drug and cited home invasions in Kirkland where marijuana was grown as reasons to be concerned about home and neighborhood security.
Odle said these public safety issues are another reason for the moratorium and for the city to study all of the possible effects collective gardens can have in Redmond.
COUNTY NOT CRACKING DOWN — FOR NOW
While surrounding cities are placing moratoriums on collective marijuana gardens, King County has yet to take action, according to county council member Kathy Lambert, who represents Redmond.
“It’s under advisement,” she said. “We’re still determining what to do.”
This means medical-marijuana opeations in unicorporated areas of the county, such as The Kind Alternative Medical Collective, a nonprofit collective in Preston, can continue with its operations.
Goodhew said he has not heard of any formal moratorium or legislation proposal from county officials concerning medical marijuana.
For now, Goodhew said the county is taking a “wait-and-see approach” to regulating the collective gardens.
As for Redmond, city staff wanted to create time to form regulations while protecting against litigation with its moratorium, according to council member David Carson.
“The water is very muddy for what the state has done,” he said. “It’s not clear at all. (The moratorium) is a way of protecting the city from litigation and we don’t want to be on the tip of the spear to see what happens with this.”
Redmond Reporter editor Bill Christianson contributed to this report.