Mukilteo struggles to comply with conflicting pot rules

  • Sun Nov 27th, 2011 9:12pm
  • News

By Katya Yefimova Herald Writer

MUKILTEO — City officials are encountering pitfalls as they try to come up with a way to regulate medical marijuana collective gardens.

A state law allowing marijuana collectives went into effect in July. Several cities in Snohomish County enacted temporary bans in order to come up with appropriate regulations. Mukilteo fell one vote short of approving the ban, because a majority of council members wanted to give qualified patients access to the medicine they need.

Under state law, up to 10 qualified patients can start a collective garden to grow marijuana for medical use and harvest up to 45 plants for their own use.

Interim regulations are in effect now but must be replaced by permanent ones early next year. The rules have to do with land use, so they will be enforced by code officials, not cops

Two known medical marijuana collectives operating in Mukilteo moved to the city before rules were passed and are not subject to these regulations. At least one more is expected to set up shop here soon.

The thing is, state and federal laws are not in agreement on medical marijuana. It’s illegal at the federal level but allowed here in Washington.

“It’s not subject to city authority to resolve this contradiction,” senior planner Glen Pickus told the city’s planning commission last week.

Mukilteo officials must walk a fine line between complying with state law but not doing anything that will cause federal agents to intervene. Not allowing the gardens at all may land the city in court, Pickus said.

Here are some of the questions officials have to resolve:

Location: The collectives are being allowed in the areas zoned “light industrial.” That limits them to some areas off Mukilteo Speedway. The collectives have to be at least 500 feet away from each other, as well as from schools or youth facilities, parks, community centers, day cares and residential areas.

Safety: Officials worry that the collectives may become magnets for criminal activity.

“It’s not that the gardens are doing anything criminal, it’s that they may be attracting crime,” Pickus said. For example, someone may try to go after patients coming out with medical marijuana.

Trying to limit minors’ exposure to the collectives is another concern.

Licensing: Collectives won’t be asked to apply for a business license because the city can’t issue one for illegal activity. At the same time, the city wants to be able to make sure a collective is in agreement with code. A safety license will be required instead, which will give officials some oversight.

The city will make no money off the collectives because they are not businesses, Pickus said. Under the state law, no business transaction can take place in a collective garden.