Mayor Introduces Legislation to Create New Licenses for Marijuana Businesses

Mayor Ed Murray today unveiled new legislation for the marijuana industry. The proposal addresses the rise of the unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries and creates a path for dispensaries to join the fully licensed and legal marketplace.

“We’re strengthening the recreational marijuana market and creating safer, more consistent access for those who rely on medicinal products,” said Murray. “Medical marijuana patients live with debilitating and frequently life threatening conditions, that’s why it’s so important to bring medical dispensaries into the fold by July 2016. This will expand the legal market and ensure that products are sold with the best medical and state retail standards.”

Since the passage of Initiative 502 in 2012, Seattle has seen the number of unregulated medical marijuana establishments double to nearly 100.

The State Legislature recently addressed the legal questions surrounding services and products being sold. The Mayor’s proposal allows the City to follow state regulations more closely by granting a new regulatory license to existing Initiative 502 businesses. The proposal also creates a path forward for medical marijuana dispensaries to follow enforcement guidelines and continue operations until they are able to receive state licenses in 2016.

“I am committed to work with the Mayor and his executive departments to implement these proposals using civil remedies and regulatory enforcement rather than criminal law enforcement wherever possible,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “I support using whatever tools are necessary to get the job done, but I hope and believe that civil regulatory enforcement will be most effective in bringing all Seattle marijuana producers, processors, and retailers into I-502’s system by July 2016, and in most cases well before then.”

The proposal establishes a tiered enforcement plan that favors civil action over criminal prosecution. The enforcement plan prioritizes the prevention of sales to people under the age of 21 and non-qualifying patients, and bans marketing products that appeal to children.

“This legislation will help secure safe, consistent quality medical marijuana for patients,” said Councilmember Nick Licata. “It moves us toward an enforceable and fair regulated delivery system for both medical and recreational marijuana.”

Currently, medical marijuana dispensaries operate entirely outside of regulation. Under this proposed framework, the regulation of marijuana dispensaries will no longer be dependent on law enforcement alone. Many of these new policies will help normalize the marijuana industry as it joins mainstream businesses already operating in the City of Seattle.

“The C.C.S.E. and the C.P.C. have focused on standards and ethics in the Cannabis industry since their inceptions,” said Jeremy Kaufman, founder of the Center of Palliative Care and chairperson of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards and Ethics. “Our organizations have always advocated for patients to have access to quality dispensaries and we want operators to conduct business without fear of criminal prosecution. Medical cannabis is undergoing a transition in Washington that will clarify its status.  Creating clarity is a complex process and this transition for medical cannabis is the next step in that process for Seattle and our local Cannabis industry.”

“As a licensed retailer opening a recreational store in Seattle I applaud the City of Seattle for moving forward on important legislation that will allow responsible adults to use marijuana recreationally and ensure that medical patients have access to quality-controlled products, while protecting public safety and our quality of life,” said John Branch, a member of the Washington Cannabusiness Association and owner of Ponder, opening at 24th and Union.

The proposal will be transmitted to City Council in June. More information is available on the FAQ page and Proposal Summary page.