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Governor's Veto Leaves Cities in a Haze Over Medical Pot Dispensaries

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Count Edmonds Mayor Mike Cooper among those frustrated that Gov. Chris Gregoire didn't better defog the rules surrounding medical marijuana in Washington.

He, like many city and county leaders in the state, had been hoping the governor and lawmakers would clarify the law on how marijuana can be grown and distributed to qualified patients.

It would make life simpler when operators of those marijuana dispensaries show up at City Hall to get a business license or open up a storefront without one.

But Gregoire vetoed most of a medical marijuana bill passed by the Legislature, leaving mayors such as Cooper still seeking answers on exactly what they can do regarding those entrepreneurs.

"In the absence of any guidance from the Legislature, the cities have no ability to move forward," Cooper said Friday.

Gregoire contends it shouldn't be that confusing. Dispensaries aren't legal, she said, and cities can use their land use and zoning powers to prevent them from cropping up if that's the concern.

It's more complicated for them.

Elected officials and law enforcement leaders are generally frustrated by having to referee without a whistle in a highly charged debate that pits the will of the people against a long standing law of the land.

Washington voters in 1998 legitimized marijuana use for medical reasons. But Initiative 692 didn't set up any system for getting qualified patients their cannabis free of hassle and threat of arrest.

These days, dispensaries are opening with increasing regularity as their operators risk jail by flouting federal law's ban on growing and selling of marijuana. Several dispensaries have been busted, including several in Spokane on Thursday.

In city governments, this issue has become almost a crisis of conscience for some leaders. They don't want to see patients deprived of needed medicine, but they also don't want to be charged with abetting criminal behavior by letting dispensaries open.

Leaders in some cities want to look the other way to let dispensaries roam free. In Edmonds, Cooper said the city denied a business license to one person who wanted to open a dispensary. A second person opened one without a license then moved out of the city when given a cease-and-desist order.

Then in January, the City Council voted to impose a moratorium on dispensaries. They hoped state lawmakers would craft uniform rules for permitting them. Mountlake Terrace and Granite Falls also have passed moratoriums for the same reason.

Mountlake Terrace Councilwoman Michelle Robles said the lack of clear guidelines from the state makes it difficult to even try to discuss as a community where they should and should not be located.

"We first need to make sure we're not running afoul of state law," she said.

Cooper, a former state lawmaker, knows Gregoire's veto isn't the end of the story. When told another version of the bill may surface in the current special session, he said it would be welcomed.

"It'll be disappointing if they fail to take some action," he said. "Even if they take action to say there's no dispensaries allowed is better than nothing. The Legislature needs to fix this one way or another."

And Gregoire would need to sign it.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: heraldnet.com
Author: Jerry Cornfield
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: The Daily Herald Co.
Website: Governor's veto leaves cities in a haze over medical pot dispensaries
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