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News (Media Awareness Project) - US WA: Sumner City Council Extends Moratorium On Medical
Title:US WA: Sumner City Council Extends Moratorium On Medical
Published On:2012-01-24
Source:Bonney Lake & Sumner Courier-Herald (WA)
Fetched On:2012-01-26 06:01:18

Any question whether medical marijuana dispensaries would be able to
join the ranks of Sumner's licensed businesses returned under the
cover of smoke Jan. 17. The City Council voted unanimously to affirm
an ordinance enacting a six-month moratorium on issuing business
licenses and allowing land or building use for marijuana

The ordinance was a response to the lack of clarity regarding the
legality of dispensaries in state law, City Attorney Brett Vinson said.

"(This) is an ordinance the council passed a year ago imposing a
moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries," Vinson said. "In
January last year, another initiative was passed by the state
legislature -- in the Senate -- that further enacted provisions for
medical marijuana. Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed major parts of that
item, and the result was that it left local and state municipalities
somewhat in flux as to what they should do."

In 2011, the state legislature changed certain requirements for
patients, designated providers and health care providers regarding
medical cannabis.

Doctors belonging to a list of approved health care providers are
allowed to discuss the benefits and risks of cannabis with patients
suffering from certain symptoms of cancer, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C
anorexia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, glaucoma, Crohn's disease and
other "forms of intractable pain." Said patients are allowed to
receive a doctor's recommendation for cannabis use on tamper proof
paper and register with the state Department of Health. The proof of
that registration can be presented to a state law enforcement officer
as a safeguard against arrests for possession. The patient is allowed
to have no more than 15 plants and 24 usable (read: harvested)ounces
of pot, and the patient can specify a designated provider of medical

So what's the problem?

As it turns out, there are quite a few problems.

First is the extent of the role of designated providers. The RCW on
designated providers is explicit that the plant-possession limit holds
true for that person. However, the law is not adequately clear whether
someone can be a designated provider for multiple patients. The law
states that someone who is both a patient and provider can have no
more than twice the allowable limit for one person. If the current law
is ever determined to allow for multiple patients, one can assume
supply would be strictly determined by the number of patients.

Furthermore, the law says nothing about the sale of medical

That could become a point of legal liability given that possession and
sale of cannabis remain illegal in the eyes of the federal and,
indeed, the state criminal justice system.

"A patient could still be arrested and charged with possession,"
Vinson said. "If a patient has a medical marijuana card, the statute
calls for an affirmative defense against possession charges."

The Sumner ordinance called for a public hearing on the matter of
dispensaries within 60 days of Jan. 17.

Councillor Randy Hynek expressed concern that the City Council might
be dragging its feet on the issue.

"I am a proponent of alternative medicine and it is a fact that a
significant number of people are getting cancer," Hynek said. "And
marijuana provides benefits (for cancer patients). I'm concerned about
the people with cancer in Sumner. We've had nothing on this issue in a
year. We need to act.

"It does need to be regulated and specified where it goes. It
shouldn't be near a school, for instance."

Councillor Cindi Hochstatter inquired whether other cities had allowed
dispensaries, and whether those could be alternative sources for
Sumner patients.

Vinson said there had been other cities tolerant of operational
dispensaries, but that at least a few operators had been arrested for
the sale and possession of cannabis.

"Since there seems to be a blur between state and federal law on
medical marijuana, would acceptance or non-acceptance bring liability
to the city?" Councillor Nancy Dumas asked.

"Let me be clear that there is no liability that could flow to the
city by adopting this ordinance (to place a moratorium)," Vinson responded.

Citizen Joe Gerace, speaking in public comment on the matter,
expressed skepticism on the non-liability of a continuing moratorium.

"Renton had a moratorium on adult businesses, a continuing moratorium,
and that issue went all the way to the Supreme Court," he said. "We
can't keep tabling it and not talking about it; it's the not talking
about it that's a problem for me.

"We need to set some guidelines so we're not passing the buck on this
one. It's a big ticket issue."
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