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UPDATE: By a vote of 4-3 the Kent City Council banned medical marijuana collective gardens Tuesday night. Here's our update.
Tonight the Kent City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance that, if passed, will ban medical marijuana collective gardens throughout the city, regardless of zoning district.
The ordinance before the council, which was recently recommended by a 2-1 vote out of the Kent City Council's Economic and Community Development
Committee, and has been discussed - through two moratoriums - since last year, cites existing federal marijuana laws and the "potential secondary impacts from the establishment of facilities for the growth, production, and processing of medical cannabis," as its backbone. The ordinance declares that medical marijuana collective gardens "are not appropriate for any zoning designation within the city."
"There are certain things we want in the City of Kent and other things we don't," says Kent City Councilmember Billy Boyce, the chair of the Public Safety committee. Boyce says after an extended period of time spent learning about current state and federal marijuana laws, and extensive time spent discussing the situation with members of the Kent City Council, he decided to support the ban.
Not surprisingly, especially since Washington state law is designed to give qualifying patients the right to participate in medical marijuana collective gardens, Kent's ordinance has riled many medical marijuana supporters. Among them is Sensible Washington, an active pro-pot group that sent a letter to the members of the Kent City Council late last week urging them to vote down the ordinance. Sensible Washington has also gathered the support of at least two state lawmakers to aid in its effort to see the ordinance defeated, and says it plans to hold a rally outside Kent City Hall tonight prior to the scheduled City Kent Council meeting.
Anthony Martinelli, a Sensible Washington steering committee member and communications co-director, calls the ordinance, "essentially a ban of all safe access points," to medical marijuana, noting that collective gardens are basically the only definitively legal means of obtaining medical marijuana under current Washington state law.
"It's unethical, and beyond being unethical it's illegal," says Martinelli.
While Kent's anti-collective-garden ordinance includes verbiage that recognizes Washington's existing medical marijuana law, which protects these gardens and protects qualifying patients' right to utilize them, its rationale is built on a portion of the state law that, "delegates authority, to cities and towns," to establish zoning enforcement requirements, business licensing requirements, health and safety requirements, and business tax requirements on medical marijuana operations.
Most importantly, says Boyce, Kent's would-be ban acknowledges the fact that marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA). As the ordinance points out: "The city council wishes to exercise the authority granted pursuant to state law in order to clarify that the establishment of a collective garden will be deemed to be a violation of city zoning ordinances, but the city council expressly disclaims any intent to exercise authority over collective gardens in a manner that would directly conflict with the CSA."
Martinelli says Sensible Washington plans to take court action should the Kent City Council pass the ordinance tonight, and he's heard other groups might as well. Despite this looming possibility, Sensible Washington is hoping its letter and extensive efforts to persuade the council will prevent the situation from coming to that.
For his part, Boyce expects a segment of Kent's population to be upset no matter what the council decides tonight.
"You have it both ways," says Boyce of his constituency and where it stands on the subject of medical marijuana. "No matter what we do there will be questions and conversation."
Speaking to Seattle Weekly Friday, Martinelli said Sensible Washington, by its count at that point in time, was anticipating a 4-3 vote in favor of the ordinance. However the organization is holding out hope, and enacting a full-court press in one final attempt to sway members planning to vote for the ban.
"This blatantly goes against the will of the voters," says Martinelli of the decision by the Kent City Council to consider a medical marijuana ban."They're overplaying their power. The citizens of Kent are not calling for this."
"I haven't the slightest idea what people are going to do," says Boyce of tonight's vote.
Find the letter Sensible Washington sent to the Kent City Council on the following page ...
The letter sent to the Kent City Council by Sensible Washington, co-signed by 45th Legislative District Democrat Roger Goodman and 36th Legislative District Democrat Mary Lou Dickerson, reads as such:
To The City Council of Kent:
We, the undersigned, hereby formally petition you, the members of the Kent City Council, to respect the wishes and demands of the voters of Washington State, to act in adherence to the laws adopted by our state in regards to medical cannabis (pursuant to RCW 69.51a), and to cease and desist any and all attacks on qualifying medical cannabis patients, medical providers, and safe access points within the City of Kent.
Our state's voters and elected officials have recognized the need to allow safe access to medical cannabis for qualifying patients, and have declared that those who cannot provide themselves with said medical cannabis are within their rights to procure a provider; "Qualifying patients may create and participate in collective gardens for the purpose of producing, processing, transporting, and delivering cannabis for medical use" - RCW 69.51A.085.
To deny the citizens of Kent this right will be viewed as lacking compassion, as you would be denying safe and local access to a medicine that has proven to be an effective treatment for a variety of serious ailments.
We would like to state that, as elected representatives, you have a duty to honor the wishes of your constituents, and respect the will of your electors. The will of Kent and Washington State citizens is that qualifying patients should be allowed safe access to medical cannabis. Furthermore, any vote to ban safe access in the City of Kent will be viewed as an action against the will of the residents of the City of Kent, and as a violation of Washington State law.
We ask that you review this letter with great consideration of the harm you will do to your community by denying much-needed medicine to the seriously ill, and through decreasing public safety by forcing these patients to the dangerous black-market, benefiting criminals and criminal organizations. We formally petition you, as the City Council of Kent, to vote against a ban on medical cannabis safe access points within the City of Kent.
-State Representative Roger Goodman
-State Representative Mary Lou Dickerson