The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved a bill which allows medical cannabis dispensaries to continue operating in the city without a state-issued licensed past the current deadline of January 1st, 2015. The proposal, introduced by Councilor Nick Licata, would allow dispensaries to continue operating in the city without a state license until either July 1st, 2015, or January 1st, 2016, depending on whether the Washington State Legislature establishes a state-wide medical cannabis system in the next session.
In November, the Council approved a bill requiring dispensaries in the city to acquire a state-issued medical cannabis license by January 1st, 2015, despite the fact that such a license doesn’t exist; the Council made the move in anticipation that the state Legislature would create a system for medical cannabis, but that never materialized. This new bill, which now awaits consideration by the city’s mayor, extends the deadline to either July, 2015, or January 2016.
“At some point, many of those doors are going to have to close”, says Councilor Sally Clark. “That’s a reality. If we want [Initiative] 502 to exist and be successful, we need medical to be recognized and in the system”.
Council President Tim Burgess express a similar sentiment; “You can’t have three systems: regulated, licensed, taxed; a medical system in the gray zone; and a black market,” he said. “It’s not in our interest for that to happen.”
Many patients, however, are worried about the council forcing medical cannabis into the recreational cannabis system.
“Recreational prices are much, much higher right now, there’s far less stores and they don’t have the same kind of oils I need”, says Melinda Careth, a Washington State medical cannabis patient who suffers from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). “It makes no sense to force shut so many locations that have helped so many. Force them to pay taxes, make them get licensed in the city, but don’t make them shutdown for the benefit of a select few recreational stores.”
If the state Legislature does create a system for medical cannabis in the upcoming session (which begins in January), wherein the state issues licenses for dispensaries, then those throughout Seattle could stay open, but the number of question marks surrounding the issue has led many to question the short time-frame put forth by the Council.
“I do not feel six months is appropriate amount of time,” Alex Cooley of Solstice told the Seattle Times after today’s vote. “There is no real-world situation in which state would be able to pass and create a license system in six months time.”