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News (Media Awareness Project) - US WA: City's Medical Marijuana Garden Rules Strengthened
Title:US WA: City's Medical Marijuana Garden Rules Strengthened
Published On:2012-01-11
Source:Mukilteo Beacon (WA)
Fetched On:2012-01-12 06:00:45

Residents who don't want any more medical marijuana gardens in
Mukilteo can relax - newly revised interim regulations allow no more
than one additional garden in the city.

Mukilteo City Council on Jan. 3 voted unanimously to further restrict
the city's interim regulations by doubling the distance requirement
for "collective gardens" from 500 feet to 1,000 feet.

The council adopted interim regulations Aug. 1, which limited
collective gardens to light industrial zones, and further restricted
them by a 500-foot distance requirement.

Legally, the interim regulations may be in effect for up to six
months. City staff continues to work on permanent regulations.

As revised, collective gardens are required to be at least 1,000 feet
away from other collective gardens, as well as schools, day cares,
parks, community centers, houses and apartment complexes.

With the 500-feet separation, there was the potential of up to six
more collective gardens in Mukilteo. With the revised 1,000-feet
separation, there is now the potential for one more garden.

"Having two gardens that are unregulated city-wise right now is more
than what Mukilteo currently needs," Councilmember Emily Vanderwielen said.

A state law adopted last year allows qualifying patients to grow
medical marijuana together in a "collective garden." Up to 10
patients at a time may grow up to 45 plants. Dispensaries and grow
farms are still illegal in the state.

The law also authorizes cities to adopt and enforce zoning
requirements regarding the production of medical marijuana.

Two collective gardens were established before the city adopted
interim regulations. Those gardens are "grandfathered in" and are
subject only to state regulations.

Since adopting the interim regulations, the city has received no
applications for new gardens.

Recently, local regulation of medical marijuana has been a topic of
uncertainty. In November, federal agents raided 14 state-sanctioned
medical marijuana dispensaries across western Washington.

Since then, lawsuits in California and - more locally - in Seattle
have been filed over the legality of state and city regulations when
medical marijuana is still an illegal drug under federal law.

Due to the uncertainly, city lawyer Angela Belbeck advised the
council to extend the interim regulations. She said adopting
permanent regulations now would only require more revisions later.

"This way it is less permanent, it's more flexible and easier to
adjust to changing laws and other developments that may occur."

At the public hearing, several residents spoke out against medical
marijuana gardens and requested more restrictions. Many said two
gardens in Mukilteo were more than enough.

Mukilteo resident Christine Schmalz said the lots available to
collective gardens should instead go to tax-generating businesses to
increase tax revenues.

"These gardens don't pay taxes," she said. "I pay taxes. I have a
business. We should be doing business with companies that really
increase our tax base and help our community."

Dr. Chris Beard, of Mukilteo, said the deeper debate - beyond how
many medical marijuana gardens to allow - is whether medical
marijuana is a valued alternative to other medications.

He said qualified patients are at risk of fatally mixing or
overdosing on alcohol and other prescription medications.

"You hate to tell somebody who's got cancer, who's got uncontrolled
pain, "I don't want to give you this because I don't trust it,'"
Beard said. "But I've never, ever had a patient who has been at this
state, need this.

"We can control their pain; we can control their nausea."

In response to Dr. Beard, Graham Wendinger, owner of one of the
collective gardens here, said that many patients come to him begging
him to help them reduce the levels of prescription drugs they are
taking to manage their pain.

"I really wonder what some of you fear," he said. "Marijuana has not
killed anyone. Hundreds of thousands die a year from being prescribed
the 'proper' medication."

Vice President Jennifer Gregerson said that many qualified patients
have come to her and expressed relief that medical marijuana gardens
are allowed in Mukilteo.

"Especially once Everett was looking at getting rid of their gardens,
[they were relieved] there was an opportunity for them to go
somewhere that is close by and relatively safe to continue that
practice," she said.

After the vote, the mayor said he was thankful the council had
extended and strengthened the city's interim regulations.

"I think two is plenty in a city our size for people who need to get
it (medical marijuana) for medicinal purposes," Mayor Joe Marine said.

"Why would we want to continue to have more and more of these open up
and take up space when we could have legitimate businesses that are
creating sales tax dollars?"
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