Council adopts permanent medical marijuana rules

By Sara Bruestle | May 09, 2012

Medical marijuana garden regulations are now on the books in Mukilteo.

After nine months of study, the City Council on Monday voted 6-1 to adopt permanent regulations allowing medical marijuana “collective gardens” within city limits.

The council had adopted interim regulations in August, which limited collective gardens to light industrial zones and further restricted them with a distance requirement. In January, the council increased the distance requirement from 500 to 1,000 feet.

“I will continue to wait and look forward to when the feds and the state actually resolve this issue, but until then we have to manage the fact that it’s here and it’s available as best we can,” Councilmember Randy Lord said.

City lawyer Angela Belbeck advised the council to adopt permanent regulations because it is unknown when, or if, new state law will be adopted.

A state law adopted last year allows qualifying patients to grow medical marijuana together in a “collective garden.” Up to 10 patients at a time may grow up to 45 plants.

The law also authorizes cities to adopt and enforce zoning requirements regarding the production of medical marijuana. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

As with the interim regulations, collective gardens are required to be at least 1,000 feet away from other collective gardens, as well as schools, day cares, parks, community centers, houses and apartment complexes.

Two collective gardens were established before the city adopted interim regulations. Those gardens are “grandfathered in” and are subject only to state regulations.

With the 1,000-feet restriction, there is the potential for one more garden. The city received an application for a third garden, but it expired because it was not signed.

Since the two collective gardens were established, there have been no issues of note related to their operations.

“We can’t illuminate the illegal activity and we can’t prevent medical cannabis patients from having that in their homes, but we can create regulations that have restraint and create limited scope,” Councilmember Jennifer Gregerson said. “We’ve seen so far they have been working in the city in the two locations that we have it.”

At the public hearing, several residents cited the recent robbery of marijuana from a Mukilteo home on Marine View Drive as reasons to pass – or not – the regulations. (See accompanying story.)

The homeowner has a medical marijuana card that, under state law, allows individuals to possess or grow marijuana for medicinal purposes, Belbeck said. However, that does not mean that he has a state-defined collective garden, she said.

“Although this issue is a land use issue and does not specifically authorize marijuana, you really are enabling marijuana by passing this ordinance,” said Thomas McGrath, on the city’s planning commission.

“I think, in the long run, the laws of the country should come first.”

Although she supports medical marijuana, Mukilteo resident Sarah Marsh said she finds it “unfathomable” that the council would consider allowing more medical marijuana gardens after last Monday’s robbery.

“Crime comes with marijuana operations,” Marsh said. “This should not be allowed in the city. I just hope that what happened has served Mukilteo as a red light.

“It’s time to change course and really think about whether we want to invite more crime like this into our town.

“We’re not going to be a top 10 city if this keeps happening.”

Roger Wagley – who lives next door to the home that was robbed – supported permanent regulations for the gardens.

“We need these things out of the neighborhoods,” he said. “It’s not a question. We can only do so much.”

After the vote, the mayor said the city is moving in the right direction by adopting permanent regulations.

“As much as I dislike this, it’s best that we have some rules in place that we can control,” Joe Marine said. “At least, by this, the most we could have is one more. I think one is plenty, but we can’t have more than three.”

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