Olympia council extends moratorium on new medical marijuana outlets

Olympia has extended its ban on new medical marijuana facilities and collective gardens while the state figures out how to regulate that system.

The Olympia City Council unanimously approved a first reading Tuesday for another six-month moratorium. The council first passed a one-year moratorium in May 2013. A six-month extension was passed last October, but would have expired May 6.

The city has 13 medical marijuana dispensaries that are allowed to remain open and are unaffected by the ongoing moratorium.

In 2012, Washington voters legalized marijuana for adult recreational use with the passage of I-502. The state allotted two recreational stores in Olympia, both of which opened in the past year: Green Lady Marijuana and A Bud and Leaf.

Unlike recreational marijuana retailers, the medical dispensaries operate in a legal gray area without a state license or regulation. Prices at the medical dispensaries are significantly cheaper — often 30 percent less — than the heavily-taxed recreational retailers.

Chris Grabowski, a code enforcement officer, told the council Tuesday that the moratorium on medical outlets is necessary until the state finds a way to create one regulated system. The Senate recently passed SB 5052 to consolidate the two markets, and the bill is currently in the House Rules Committee.

If the Legislature fails to resolve the issue this session, Grabowski said he will recommend another moratorium.

“Hopefully, by end of the session there will be something moving forward,” he said.

Councilman Jim Cooper said the ban should have no effect on the local supply of medical marijuana.

“We feel there is adequate supply,” Cooper said Tuesday. “Until we have the ability to regulate that business, we are not allowing anymore growth.”