Issaquah Chamber of Commerce urged city leaders to rethink medical marijuana decision

January 3, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Matthew Bott

Before City Council members approved a landmark decision on medical marijuana collective gardens last month, business leaders quietly urged officials to consider possible fallout on the local economy.

Issaquah Chamber of Commerce CEO Matthew Bott sent a letter to council members Dec. 2, days before the council set rules for collective gardens and limited medical marijuana operations near parks and schools.

The chamber did not take a position on the issue, but the organization’s Government Affairs Committee asked Bott to offer input on possible impacts to Issaquah’s standing.

“Our reputation as a safe, family-friendly and wholesome community is one of our greatest assets — and one that has been carefully developed by the community for decades,” Bott wrote. “Many in the community, and specifically those in the residential real estate market, feel that the sanctioning of a collective marijuana garden may damage this well-developed community reputation.”

Such damage could impact the local housing market, the letter continued.

“Specific to this issue, a number of local real estate agents and brokers have shared concerns with us that a medical marijuana collective garden would put Issaquah at a competitive disadvantage to other Eastside communities in terms of attractiveness to potential new families,” Bott wrote.

The council approved the decision in a 6-1 decision after hearing from medical marijuana advocates and patients. Only one person spoke against the ordinance at the Dec. 5 council meeting.

The measure approved by the council requires a 1,000-foot buffer between a collective garden and a community center, school or another collective garden. The ordinance also set a 500-foot buffer between a collective garden and park, preschool or daycare center. The ordinance also established a limit of a single collective garden per site.

The council imposed a moratorium on collective gardens in June and then, a month later, upheld the moratorium and directed planners to determine rules for medical marijuana operations in the city.

The letter from the chamber also recommended for city leaders to consider delaying a decision until state lawmakers further clarify medical marijuana rules.

“Clearly, Issaquah does not stand to gain from being one of the first cities in the state, and one of the first on the Eastside, to permit the use of collective marijuana gardens for medicinal purposes,” Bott wrote. “Much work remains to be done at the state and/or federal level on this issue, and it is of concern to many that the city would wish to move forward on this issue in relative isolation, given the potential unintended consequences.”

Marijuana, for medical uses or otherwise, remains illegal under federal law. In Washington, a voter-approved state law permits medical uses for patients suffering from debilitating conditions, such as AIDS and cancer. Washington and 15 other states — plus Washington, D.C. — allow health care providers to authorize medical marijuana as a treatment.

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

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