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City votes down medical marijuana gardens

  • Written by Don Mann
By a 6-0 vote, with Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders abstaining, the Woodinville City Council adopted Ordinance No. 541 which prohibits medical marijuana collective gardens within city limits.

The issue came to light in April 2011 when the state Legislature passed E2SSB 5073, a bill which allowed local jurisdictions to zone, license and regulate medical marijuana collective gardens.

(State law, however, appears to be in conflict with federal law, which considers marijuana a controlled substance and does not make an exemption for medical marijuana.) Then-current city code appeared to allow this use since it was not explicitly listed as non-permitted and the council on September 13, 2011, enacted a six month moratorium to allow the planning commission to recommend code changes.

The moratorium was to expire March 13, 2012.

The planning commission held a public hearing on the matter and recommended extending the moratorium for another six months.

City staff, including the city attorney, recommended clarifying the city’s position once and for all that such collective gardens are prohibited.

In its report it cited a litany of problems associated with collective gardens: conversion of residential uses into marijuana cultivation and processing facilities removes valuable housing stock in a community; degrading neighborhood aesthetics due to shuttered up homes; offensive odors; increased nighttime traffic; parking issues; loitering from potential purchasers; environmental damages from chemicals being discharged into surrounding soil, storm and sanitary sewer systems; serious risk of fire hazard due to overloaded service connections used to operate grow lights and fans; improper ventilation leading to high levels of moisture and mold; illegal structural modifications and criminal issues such as home invasions, burglaries, theft and property damage.

Two citizens spoke during the public hearing; one in favor of prohibition and one opposed. Staff provided a list of neighboring cities’ positions on the matter: Issaquah and Mukilteo have elected to allow the gardens while others continue to extend moratoria, to see what state legislators will do in 2012 regarding the matter, according to Development Services Director Hal Hart. Hart also indicated no neighboring city to his knowledge had outright banned the gardens.

After lengthy discussion on the item’s pros and cons, Councilmember Liz Aspen moved to adopt the ordinance as recommended by staff.

“Based on the information I feel very comfortable sticking my neck out and being one of the first cities to prohibit collective gardens.”

Mayor Bernie Talmas was more emphatic: “... We all took an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution. In that it clearly provides that federal law preempts local and state law. In my view we don’t have an option. We cannot establish regulations permitting ... anything to do with marijuana. It’s against federal law and we can’t take any action that violates that.”

Boundy-Sanders, acknowledging those that use the substance for medicinal reasons (“They’re in a world of hurt,” she said), was reluctant for Woodinville to be the first locality to outright prohibit the gardens.“It sets us up for looking a little bit too unenlightened,” she said.

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