Citizens can offer input about medical marijuana ordinance

August 30, 2011

By Warren Kagarise

Citizens can offer input on the citywide moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens as planners craft a possible solution.

Under direction from the City Council, the municipal Planning Department is developing a measure to determine what — or indeed if — business, safety and zoning restrictions should apply to such gardens. The city is offering opportunities for citizen input on a proposed ordinance in September and October.

Issaquah is in the midst of a six-month moratorium on the collective gardens. The council enacted the ban in June and, per standard procedure, held a public hearing on the issue July 18. Members agreed to uphold the ban, but after hearing from medical marijuana users and advocates, directed planners to formulate a solution as soon as possible.

Citizens can comment at Planning Policy Commission meetings Sept. 8 and 22. The council is expected to discuss the proposal Oct. 3.

Get involved

The municipal Planning Department is developing a city ordinance for medical marijuana collective gardens. Citizens can offer input at the following meetings:

Planning Policy Commission

6:30 p.m. Sept. 8

City Council Chambers, City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way

The commission hosts a workshop to introduce the issue and receive public input.

Planning Policy Commission

6:30 p.m. Sept. 22

City Council Chambers, City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way

The commission hosts a formal public hearing on a proposed medical marijuana ordinance and forwards a recommendation to the City Council.

City Council regular meeting

7:30 p.m. Oct. 3

City Council Chambers, City Hall South, 135 E. Sunset Way

The council intends to review the recommendation from the Planning Policy Commission.

“We’ve done some research about what other communities are doing, how they’re responding — not only in our state but in other states,” Planning Manager Trish Heinonen said.

Federal Way, Kent, North Bend and other cities clamped down on medical-marijuana operations in recent months. King County adopted a laissez-faire approach to operations in unincorporated areas. Seattle could require medical marijuana dispensaries to acquire business licenses and adhere to city zoning rules.

“There’s a lot of information out there. Different jurisdictions are handling it in different ways,” Heinonen said. “We’re learning a lot.”

The public input from the meetings is meant to help planners shape the ordinance sent to the council for approval.

“What’s the most important to the community?” Heinonen said. “What kind of ideas and issues and thoughts do they have?”

The effort to craft the ordinance offers a rare chance for city planners and police officers to work together. In upholding the moratorium, the council sought to balance medical, safety and social concerns about medical marijuana operations.

“We’re hoping, once we hear all of the information, that then we’ll go back with the mayor’s office and figure out which direction do we want to go,” Heinonen said.

State legislators sought to clarify medical marijuana rules in the 2011 regular legislative session, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed parts of the bill after federal prosecutors threatened to charge state employees for carrying out such a law.

Issaquah and other cities, including neighboring Sammamish, enacted temporary bans to address issues related to medical marijuana. The law Gregoire signed allows cities to examine possible restrictions on medical marijuana operations.

Marijuana in all forms remains illegal under federal law, although Washington Initiative 692, passed in 1998, allows people suffering from certain medical conditions to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana. Under state law, physicians can recommend — but not prescribe — medical marijuana for patients.

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

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