Apr 21, 201110:02 AMBlog

Federal Way enacts moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

Apr 21, 2011 - 10:02 AM
The Federal Way City Council has placed a six-month emergency moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries within the city. The measure directs the city clerk not to accept applications for business licenses or other documents from dispensaries.

The council action was prompted by a bill being considered in the state legislature that seeks to legalize dispensaries, but in so doing conflicts with federal drug laws and leaves cities vulnerable on several fronts. Federal Way's primary concerns center on the potential for "grandfathering" marijuana dispensaries whose owners and/or operators have criminal backgrounds, and the possibility of opening city employees and landowners to federal prosecution.

On April 12th, U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby notified Gov. Chris Gregoire that the proposed state legislation would violate federal law. The letter noted that state employees - and by extension, local officials - who regulate dispensaries under the state law would be open to federal prosecution. The U.S. attorneys also noted that landowners who rent to marijuana dispensaries would be subject to prosecution, as well.

Under the proposed state legislation, dispensaries that submit a letter of intent to the city by May 1, 2011, would be grandfathered while the state developed rules to take effect in 2013. The grandfathering provision would effectively prevent the city from conducting the normal criminal background checks it conducts for all business license applicants and from denying those applications.

There are three dispensaries currently operating in Federal Way. All have applied for and been denied business licenses. Businesses operating in Federal Way without a business license face criminal prosecution and civil fines of up to $100 per day.


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