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Arlington City Council okays medical marijuana moratorium

Arlington Police Chief Nelson Beazley introduces the proposed ordinance establishing a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens to the Arlington City Council on Aug. 15. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington Police Chief Nelson Beazley introduces the proposed ordinance establishing a six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens to the Arlington City Council on Aug. 15.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — One month after the Marysville City Council voted unanimously to impose a six-month moratorium on the establishment, licensing or permitting of medical marijuana dispensaries or collective gardens, the Arlington City Council did the same.

The Arlington City Council’s unanimous vote in favor of their moratorium during their Aug. 15 meeting followed a discussion on the issue during their Aug. 8 workshop. Arlington Police Chief Nelson Beazley not only acknowledged that Arlington’s moratorium was inspired by those of “sister cities” such as Marysville, but assured the Council that he would be working with Marysville and its fellow cities to ensure that Arlington’s zoning of medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens is consistent with those of other municipalities.

Although discussion was virtually nonexistent at the Aug. 15 meeting, the Aug. 8 workshop saw Beazley and a number of Council members voicing agreement on the urgency of such a moratorium to ensure that collective gardens don’t move in next to schools or child care areas. As of July 22, legislation signed by Gov. Christine Gregoire effectively makes medical marijuana dispensaries illegal under state law, but also allows cities to regulate collective gardens. According to Beazley, future legislation could change the legal status of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“This gives us time to do it right,” Beazley said. “There’s so much word-smithing required that we need to establish a process so that people’s legal needs are met without others taking advantage.”

At the Aug. 8 workshop, Council member Chris Raezer echoed concerns expressed by his fellow Council members and Beazley about the importance of regulating and allowing access to the legal use of medical marijuana, while at the same time keeping it out of the hands of kids or illegal growers. When Raezer admitted to being frustrated over the legislation’s lack of clarity, Beazley noted that the state Legislature was likely to take the issue up again in its next session, but added that some confusion is inevitable with issues where state and federal laws can come into conflict.

Arlington City Attorney Steve Peiffle is confident that the city can develop appropriate land use regulations within the six months before the moratorium sunsets, a window of time which Council member Marilyn Oertle advocated for during the Aug. 8 workshop.

“We need this time to map out all the ins and outs,” said Oertle, who rejected the “wait and see” approach that Beazley reported some cities have adopted in response to this issue. “Without this moratorium, anything could happen in the meantime.”

“This needs to be written so tight that there won’t be any loopholes that can be worked around,” Council member Dick Butner said.

Council member Linda Byrnes likewise deemed it “such a confusing issue that I wouldn’t object to being overly informed” before setting any policy. At the same time, she called for the Council to treat this issue as they would any other.

“We need to serve the best interests of the entire community, not just any one group within it,” Beazley said at the Aug. 8 workshop.

Lake Stevens resident Marcus Cravens attended both the Aug. 8 workshop and the Aug. 15 meeting to share his insights and experiences with legal medical marijuana with the Arlington City Council, but he was not afforded an opportunity to speak on the subject at either time.

“There wasn’t any period for public comment last week, but I was told that I’d be able to comment this week,” Cravens said, after exiting the Aug. 15 meeting in the wake of the Council’s vote. “Mukilteo was able to draft its regulations within two weeks. We have patients in this area who have already been using medicinal marijuana for 13 years. What happens to the patients who are too sick to grow their own or drive to where they can get it? People will be forced to turn to the black market or questionable delivery services. I came here because I didn’t want to see those patients get screwed.”

 

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