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Zoning for Medical Pot Shops - What Will Seattle Do?

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Should medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle be grouped in one neighborhood - perhaps an industrial one like SoDo?

Should the pot shops allow people to use the product on site?

Should their windows be covered, or should passersby be able to clearly see what's going on inside?

The City Council will soon be grappling with questions like these, whether or not the state Legislature passes legislation clarifying rules for medical marijuana here.

On Wednesday a state Senate panel took testimony on Senate Bill 5955, the latest attempt to pass a comprehensive overhaul of Washington's medical marijuana law. Voters made medical cannabis legal in Washington state in 1998, but it's only been recently that dispensaries have been opening in cities across the state with almost no oversight. For the most part, municipalities have looked the other way.

"You have to end this chaos that exists in the communities," Randy Lewis from the City of Tacoma told lawmakers Wednesday. Gov. Chris Gregoire last month vetoed the bulk of previous medical cannabis legislation, citing fears that federal police would arrest state workers. It's still unclear if this new bill will succeed. It would allow dispensaries, called "nonprofit patient cooperatives," only if local jurisdictions opt in by approving an ordinance and create a statewide registry of qualified medical marijuana patients.

Sally Clark, chairwoman of the Seattle City Council committee in charge of zoning, says she'll work with City Attorney Pete Holmes on rules for the Emerald City's increasing number of medical cannabis dispensaries. The entire City Council, Holmes and Mayor Mike McGinn all support state efforts to pass a medical cannabis bill. However Clark says the city will come up with its own guidelines, with or without direction from the Legislature.

"At some point, we need to make a decision," Clark told seattlepi.com this week. "We have a raft of questions. Seattle still has a lot of these popping up. We ought to have some rational approach."

Dispensaries have opened in Ballard, Capitol Hill and SoDo, to name just a few neighborhoods. Going forward, Clark said planners must decide where they want to allow such businesses to operate and what specific rules they should adhere to.

For example, if marijuana use is allowed on site, should special venting be built into the features of the business? Does the City want them grouped in one neighborhood, to make oversight easier? Clark said Seattle officials will look to the experience of other cities - like San Francisco.

For her part, Clark said she doesn't think well-regulated medical cannabis dispensaries would be harmful to a neighborhood. "I'm not sure we need to treat them that much differently from a well-regulated drug store," Clark said.

Mayor Mike McGinn says he's hopeful the Legislature will ultimately pass guidelines for cities.

"We'll do our best to step up to that challenge. We'd like to provide greater clarity," he told reporters this week. "There's not a lot of clarity right now."

Clark said the issue will not go away, despite concerns about federal legal action or other worries.

"The voters have been clear. If people are opposed to that, the horse has left the barn," she said.

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: seattlepi.com
Author: Chris Grygiel
Contact: Contact Us
Copyright: Hearst Communications Inc.
Website: Zoning for medical pot shops - what will Seattle do?
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