Ordinance allows medical marijuana but not dispensaries
SNOHOMISH - After a number of meetings and moratoriums, the city has finally adopted an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana.
After a public hearing at the April 16 City Council meeting, the council passed an ordinance 4 to 2 to regulate medical marijuana through the city’s nuisance code. This allows the production of marijuana in the form of collective gardens, but it does not allow medical marijuana to be sold out of storefronts or dispensaries.
Snohomish’s ordinance defines collective gardens as marijuana growing or processing operations for the benefit of a limited number of patients, but they cannot be in the form of storefront shops or dispensaries, which is an unusual aspect of the ordinance. Most “collective gardens” in other cities are essentially operating out of storefront shops or dispensaries.
Collective gardens will only be allowed in business park and industrial zones. They must be located away from schools, day care facilities, parks, youth-oriented facilities and churches.
The city chose to regulate medical marijuana through its nuisance code rather than through its zoning code.
“Adopting nuisance regulations allows the city to control where and how such uses may occur without issuing a license or permit for activities that continue to be illegal under city, state and federal law,” according to city documents.
In other words, this lets the city allow medical marijuana grow operations to exist without having to issue business licenses or permits for them.
Marijuana is still considered a level one controlled substance and remains illegal at the federal level, which was the main reason Councilman Greg Guedel voted against the ordinance.
Councilwoman Lynn Schilaty provided the other dissenting vote. She said she wasn’t comfortable putting the city in the middle of a battle between the federal and state governments. She also said she didn’t think the state has done enough to clarify what is legal and what isn’t in regards to marijuana.
Four individuals addressed the council during the public hearing in support of the city’s ordinance. There were no speakers in opposition to it.
City documents indicate that the issue was addressed in order to “respond generally to the overarching intent to enhance city residents’ quality of life (without) specifically furthering or conflicting with any of the five (strategic plan) goals.”
Mayor Karen Guzak said at a previous meeting that the residents of Snohomish clearly desired an answer to the issue and pointed to the fact that more than half of Snohomish voters approved legalizing marijuana for recreational use through Initiative 502.
“I’m with the council in support of medical marijuana for people who really need it,” Guzak said in a phone interview last week. “We’ve had several moratoriums while we waited for the state to figure out what they were doing and we finally decided that we needed to take action and we took a very conservative approach.”
Councilman Derrick Burke said he doesn’t expect the illegal status of marijuana to change for quite a while, but supports slow forward movement.
“As for the ordinance itself, I am satisfied with it as a temporary mechanism because it will help us to see how easily it is to incorporate collective gardens into our community,” Burke said. “I for one would be willing to re-address the issue after a time in order to ratchet oversight up or down in response to events and/or a changing regulatory regime.”
The current moratorium will be lifted and the new ordinance will be effective in about one week, said planning manager Owen Dennison, who was the main city employee working on drafting the ordinance.
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