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Arlington City Council votes to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries
ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council voted unanimously during their Monday, Aug. 5, regular session meeting to prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens within the city of Arlington, following a public hearing which drew no comments from the citizens in attendance.
During the City Council’s July 22 workshop meeting, city of Arlington Community Development Director Paul Ellis had reminded Council members that their Aug. 5 meeting was the only meeting they had left to hold a public hearing and vote on a prohibition similar to the one likewise approved unanimously by the Marysville City Council on June 24, before Arlington’s temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens was due to sunset on Aug. 14.
“What we’ve worked up here is consistent with what the cities of Marysville and Lake Stevens have already adopted,” Ellis said on Aug. 5. “It’s critical that a decision be made on this before the moratorium expires.”
“We’ve already discussed this a lot,” Arlington City Council member Marilyn Oertle said. “And after moratorium after moratorium, it’s time to make a decision.”
The Arlington City Council’s initial six-month moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens was approved on Aug. 15, 2011, before being extended by a full year on Oct. 3, 2011, with additional six-month extensions following on July 2, 2012, and Feb. 4 of this year.
“I like that all three cities are standing together on this issue,” fellow City Council member Steve Baker said on Aug. 5.
During the Council’s July 22 meeting, Ellis had already touted the proposed ordinance to amend the Arlington Municipal Code, “to clarify that medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens are not permitted uses under city zoning law,” as a means of ensuring that the city of Arlington’s standards would be consistent with those of the cities of Marysville and Lake Stevens, since representatives of all three cities had worked together on this issue.
“This is a belt-and-suspenders approach,” Arlington City Attorney Steve Peiffle said on July 22. “We’re relying on both the state and federal governments to guide our local laws here.”
The ordinance quotes the Washington State Department of Health’s conclusions that it is not legal to buy or sell medical marijuana, and that the law does not allow dispensaries, leaving enforcement to local officials. The ordinance further declares that the Arlington City Council finds that the sale of marijuana, no matter how designated by dispensaries, remains prohibited by federal and state law.
Under the ordinance, the city of Arlington acknowledges the right of qualified health care professionals to prescribe the medical use of marijuana, as well as the right of patients to designate a “designated provider” who could “provide” rather than sell marijuana to only one patient at any one time. However, the ordinance also cites a section of the medical marijuana bill adopted with a partial veto of Gov. Christine Gregoire in 2011, which “effectively eliminates medical marijuana dispensaries as a legally viable model of operation under state law.”
One section of the ordinance notes the “numerous adverse land use impacts” in other communities where medical marijuana uses have been approved, including the conversion of residential-use property into facilities for marijuana cultivation and processing, as well as “degrading neighborhood aesthetics,” environmental damages from chemicals, fire hazards, improper ventilation leading to high levels of mold, illegal structural modifications, and crimes ranging from home invasions and burglaries of medical marijuana facilities to theft and property damage.