Town takes on medical marijuana’s ‘gray area’

3:19 pm August 5th, 2013

Anyone wanting to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Eatonville will have to comply with local, state and federal regulations for such businesses, the Town Council has decided.
The council passed an amended ordinance July 8 amid ongoing uncertainty over the conflict between federal and state laws regarding marijuana. In Washington last fall, voters statewide legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. But the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The Eatonville measure protects the town from possibly approving a dispensary in violation of any laws, town officials said.
“It’s a gray area” until state and federal control is sorted out, said Mayor Ray Harper.
The council, using its own rules that allow quick passage of ordinances, added the medical marijuana provision to an existing town ordinance that governs the issuing of business licenses. The action that was taken earlier this month, reached in about half the time ordinance decisions usually take, was a response to a proposal by a citizen to open a dispensary on Washington Avenue North. In addition to concern over potential conflicts with laws specific to marijuana storefronts, town officials noted the location wouldn’t qualify for a business license because it’s within 1,000 feet of Eatonville Middle School and Eatonville Elementary School – the buffer required for businesses selling alcohol or marijuana.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided a medical marijuana dispensary in Tacoma July 24, the same day federal agents raided two other dispensaries in the Puget Sound region – one in King County and one in Thurston County. Agents used search warrants to seize marijuana, and potential charges against the operators of the storefronts were pending, according to news reports.
The Pierce County Council voted July 2 to delay the start of the recreational marijuana market in the county until state licensing rules are set and the county has permanent zoning regulations.
In last November’s general election, voters approved Initiative 502, which creates a framework for the licensing, production and sale of marijuana for recreational use. The state Liquor Control Board, which is adding marijuana to its regulatory authority, is working on rules for the newly legalized industry that could take effect Sept. 16 after public hearings early in August and a board vote that’s scheduled for Aug. 14.
Council members said the county needs time to consider if additional local regulations will be needed for the county’s unincorporated areas.
Proposed state rules would help govern how marijuana is produced, processed and sold for recreational use, according to the Liquor Control Board. Officials said consumer-protection measures would include packaging and label requirements, including dosage and warnings, child-resistant packaging, the sale of only lab tested and approved products, and limits on package sizes.

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