King County forgoes crackdown on medical marijuana

July 26, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Dow Constantine

King County is adopting a more laissez-faire approach to medical-marijuana operations as Issaquah, Sammamish and other cities tighten rules for patient-run collective gardens and other operations.

Issaquah City Council members upheld a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens July 18 — the same day the council in neighboring Sammamish enacted a similar moratorium. Federal Way, Kent, North Bend and other cities also clamped down on medical-marijuana operations.

King County Executive Dow Constantine, however, does not intend to propose legislation to address the issue in rural and unincorporated areas.

“At this time, the executive does not plan to propose any new regulations governing dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county,” said Frank Abe, a spokesman for the executive.

The decision means medical-marijuana operations in unincorporated areas, such as The Kind Alternative Medical Collective, a nonprofit collective in Preston, can continue operations unaffected.

In the meantime, county officials plan to reach out to residents in unincorporated areas to address concerns.

“The King County executive, prosecutor and sheriff will continue to work with unincorporated area communities and other local jurisdictions to protect public health and safety, and monitor issues that evolve under the new state law,” Abe said.

Initiative 692, passed in 1998, allows people suffering from certain medical conditions to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana. Marijuana, for medical purposes or otherwise, remains illegal under federal law.

King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg does not prosecute “legitimate patients who qualify under the law if they reasonably adhere to the dictates of the statute” — a policy the prosecutor’s office adopted in October 2008, not long after the state Department of Health clarified possession rules for medical marijuana users.

County prosecutors continue to pursue marijuana cases related to the criminal drug trade.

State lawmakers attempted to legalize and regulate marijuana dispensaries and farms, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed measures to legalize such operations, and the truncated law took effect July 22.

Under the state law, up to 10 qualifying patients can join together and form a collective garden of up to 45 plants, so long as the marijuana is not visible from public spaces.

In unincorporated areas, “King County government will continue, as it has since the enactment of Initiative 692, to protect public health and safety through existing laws and regulations,” Abe said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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