Suzette Cooke
In the wake of Tuesday's vote by the Kent City Council to ban medical marijuana collective gardens within city limits, lawsuits were filed


Kent's Medical Marijuana Collective Garden Ban: Mayor Suzette Cooke's Take

Suzette Cooke
In the wake of Tuesday's vote by the Kent City Council to ban medical marijuana collective gardens within city limits, lawsuits were filed and tempers flared. Many medical marijuana supporters decried the decision, calling it a violation of state law, not to mention downright uncompassionate. Now Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke has weighed in.

Speaking to Seattle Weekly late in the day Wednesday, and noting that she couldn't comment on the lawsuit filed by medical marijuana activist Steve Sarich and the Cannabis Action Coalition because she had yet to read it, Cooke described her city as stuck between a rock and a hard spot. On one hand, she says, many, including herself, support medical marijuana collective gardens and patients' right to access them. On the other hand, there's the federal law that says marijuana is illegal no matter what. And, somewhere in between, there's the state law that many government officials - including Cooke - say they find unclear and frustrating.

"As a city, and government, we are caught amidst a hodgepodge of laws," says Cooke. "I'm most disappointed that the state hasn't been able to clarify," the state's medical marijuana law.

"I'm the one who swears in our police officers," Cooke continues, pointing to the fact marijuana is illegal under federal law, which it's clear was one of the the main impetuses for Kent's actions. "It wouldn't be appropriate for me to pick and choose which laws we enforce."

Cooke says, as a supporter of collective gardens, she initially suggested they be allowed in people's homes within Kent city limits. However, over time, she says she was convinced even that was unworkable.

"My frustration is that we don't have a lawful way to provide that access [to medical marijuana]," she says.

In her opinion, and obviously in the opinion of the majority of Kent's city council, action on the matter of medical marijuana was called for. Cooke says the city had received multiple inquiries from medical marijuana dispensary-style businesses interested in opening in Kent, and Cooke describes that scenario as something the city couldn't stand for.

"I think the concern from some council members was appropriate," says Cooke. "There had to be a statement."

Of course, Sensible Washington, Sarich and other medical marijuana supporters probably aren't buying what Cooke is selling. Sensible Washington's Anthony Martinelli told Seattle Weekly yesterday: ""The actions taken by the majority of this council shows a severe lack of compassion, a blatant disregard for the will of their constituents, and a lack of understanding of how to improve the safety of their community." With an election always looming, Martinelli also noted that Sensible Washington would "strongly back any opposition [to Cooke] who would respect state law and their constituents."

Sarich was even more to the point when it comes to municipalities wrestling with the state's medical marijuana laws.

"They whine that the state law is muddy and unclear," said Sarich of cities like Kent that have enacted moratoriums or passed similar ordinances. "The law is pretty clear, and is crystal clear when it comes to collective gardens. ... I challenge you to find anything in the state law that gives cities the right to regulate collective gardens [as Kent now has]."

Also on Daily Weekly: Arrest Protection Law For Medical Marijuana Patients Coming Down the Pipe

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