Three cities put hold on gardens for medical marijuana

At least three cities in Snohomish County are moving to delay licensing of collective gardens for growing marijuana for medical purposes.

An expansion of the state’s medical marijuana law that goes into effect July 22 makes the gardens legal with certain conditions. Snohomish adopted a six-month moratorium on those gardens this week. Marysville is looking at doing the same next week and Mukilteo could be close, too.

The moratoriums are in response to a bill passed by the Legislature this spring that outline a framework for how cities could deal with medical marijuana. Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed large sections of the bill, including a portion that would have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries. She didn’t veto part of the bill that allows for collective gardens.

Under the new law, up to 10 qualifying patients can grow 45 plants and have 72 ounces of usable cannabis at a collective garden. The law enables cities to license, zone and impose health and safety requirements.

But several cities in the county are scrambling to pass ordinances prohibiting collective marijuana gardens for six months.

“We don’t want somebody to get a foothold in so they can be grandfathered in after we change the laws,” Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said.

The topic of a moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens hasn’t come up in Everett, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

“At this time we are not pursuing a moratorium,” she said. “If there is interest, we may explore the process.”

On Tuesday night, the Snohomish City Council voted 6-0 to create a moratorium on the gardens. The city needs time to analyze possible effects of the new law on public welfare and security, Snohomish planning director Corbitt Loch said. Snohomish also plans to see how other bigger cities handle the new state law.

“It’s a brand new thing,” Loch said. “It’s important to do it right the first time.”

The Snohomish City Council set up a hearing so people can discuss the moratorium at the Aug. 2 meeting.

Cities have been struggling for months with how to regulate medical marijuana. In June 2010, Marysville denied a business license to a group hoping to operate a medical marijuana co-op in the city.

Earlier this year, Edmonds, Granite Falls and Mountlake Terrace passed moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries. The Edmonds City Council decided Tuesday to allow the city’s moratorium to end later this month. City Clerk Sandy Chase did not know if the city was going to address collective gardens.

The Marysville City Council has scheduled a public hearing on a proposed six-month moratorium at 7 p.m. Monday. The council could approve a moratorium later that night, city administrator Gloria Hirashima said.

If approved, Marysville city staff would develop regulations for the gardens to be presented to the City Council.

Mukilteo has a public hearing on the issue planned for July 18.

The Sultan City Council is also expected to talk about medical marijuana regulations at its July 28 meeting, but the city is not ready to enact a moratorium, city administrator Deborah Knight said. The council will hear only background information and could take action in August, Knight said.

A voter initiative in 1998 legalized medical marijuana in the state. It is illegal to buy or sell the drug, or to possess it, except for prescribed medical use.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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