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Mukilteo council lacks votes for moratorium on medical marijuana gardens

The Mukilteo City Council falls one vote short of establishing a six-month moratorium on the collectives to grow medical marijuana.

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By Katya Yefimova
Herald Writer
MUKILTEO -- There will be no ban on collective gardens for medical marijuana in Mukilteo.
The City Council late Monday came up one vote short of the supermajority required to pass a six-month moratorium.
A state law that will allow collective gardens takes effect Friday. Several cities in Snohomish County pushed for temporary bans in order to buy more time to write regulations.
Mukilteo council members Kevin Stoltz, Tony Tinsley and Jennifer Gregerson voted against the measure.
"It sounds more like an indefinite stall to me than any kind of commitment to develop rules," Tinsley said.
Council President Richard Emery supported the moratorium.
"I feel for the patients who need medicine immediately, but it sounds like the city is stuck between a rock and a hard place," he said. "I'd be pleased if we had a moratorium to do this correctly for everybody's benefit."
Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said the council acted hastily.
"I think I just saw the Mukilteo City Council make bad law," he said after the meeting.
Gov. Chris Gregoire in April vetoed large sections of a bill expanding the state's medical marijuana law. A portion that would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries was vetoed, while the part of the bill that allows collective gardens was left in. State and federal laws on medical marijuana are not in sync.
Under the new law, up to 10 qualifying patients can grow 45 plants at a collective garden for their own use. The law allows cities to license, zone and impose health and safety requirements on collective gardens within their jurisdictions.
Lake Stevens, Marysville and Snohomish quickly enacted temporary bans in response to the law, and the Everett City Council is expected to vote on a one-year ban on Wednesday.
Gregerson, a Mukilteo councilwoman, said she felt conflicted about the temporary ban before voting against it.
"I feel sympathy for those who are trying to access that medicine," she said. "I also respect the planning process."
The city's planning and police departments asked for the moratorium so they could have extra time to research policies in other cities and to understand how collective gardens can affect neighborhoods. Potential effects include more demand for traffic and parking, offensive smells, environmental damage from chemicals used for growing and an increase in criminal activity.
There are no known medical marijuana collective gardens in Mukilteo, and city employees haven't heard of anyone interested in starting any. Collective gardens allow individual medical marijuana patients to put their knowledge together.
Several people spoke against the moratorium during the public hearing at Monday's meeting.
Jeremy Kelsey, the president of Medical Marijuana Patients Network, urged council members to look at the issue from an access standpoint. The Everett man said it takes several months to produce medical marijuana ready for use.
"There are people who need this medication now, not after a six-month moratorium," he said.
Kelsey said Mukilteo and other cities should have been drafting ordinances and regulations in the past few months.
"My question to planning staff is this: Gregoire signed this into law on (April 29). What have they done between then and now?" he said.
Planning department employees have their hands full and need more time than that to do research and come up with appropriate rules, planning director Heather McCartney said.
She declined to answer several questions from the council directly in order not to "create problems in the public record." She did say that a moratorium can be extended more than once.
Councilman Randy Lord said the council was treating a simple planning question differently because it had to do with a sensitive issue -- medical marijuana. Lord and council members Linda Grafer, Richard Emery and Emily Vanderwielen voted in favor of the ban.
"I'm absolutely shocked that we are going to throw away all logic just because we are talking about medical marijuana," Lord said. "I'm very, very disappointed."
He added that he supports medical marijuana.
Cities have been struggling for months with how to regulate medical marijuana. Marysville denied a business license a year ago to a group that wanted to operate a medical marijuana co-op in the city.
Medical marijuana is an issue where policies can change quickly, Police Chief Rex Caldwell said.
"We have initiatives in place that can entirely negate this conversation in a few months," he said.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452;
Story tags » MukilteoHealth treatment

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