Lacey may adopt rules for medical pot gardens

CITY COUNCIL: Proposal won’t change legal efforts against businesses that sell marijuana

JEREMY PAWLOSKI; Staff writerFebruary 7, 2012 

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.

Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445
jpawloski@theolympian.com

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