Medical marijuana ban could face legal challenges
July 20, 2011
By Dan Catchpole
North Bend’s ban on production and distribution of medical marijuana could come into conflict with state law that becomes effective July 22.
That law, Senate Bill 5073, permits several patients authorized to use medical marijuana to form collective gardens. But North Bend’s moratorium prohibits such gardens.
The North Bend City Council voted unanimously in early June in favor of a one-year ban after the state Legislature failed to resolve much of the gray area surrounding the state’s medical marijuana laws.
Without any guidance from Olympia, the city administration recommended that it pass a ban to give it time to determine its policy, City Administrator Duncan Wilson said.
The council passed the ordinance under the city’s emergency clause, which requires a public hearing be held after the vote. The hearing was held July 19, after the Star went to press.
The City Council is also required to develop a work plan to get the city out of any moratorium it passes.
In the meantime, authorized patients could have difficulty getting medical marijuana in North Bend.
“Aren’t they denying us the right to medication?” Steve Sarich, a medical marijuana advocate, asked.
Sarich, who lives near North Bend, filed an injunction to stop the enforcement of SB 5703 based on the grounds that the law is too vague to be enforced.
Gov. Chris Gregoire used her section veto power to cut out parts of the final bill that required government oversight — and taxpayer money.
Among the reasons she expressed in public statements, Gregoire said she wanted to protect state employees from federal prosecution. The government does not recognize medical marijuana.
That concern was among several listed in the city’s ordinance.
Other governments in the state have wrestled with questions about the state’s new medical marijuana law.
The Castle Rock City Council banned collective gardens in a June 1 vote, after which lawsuits were filed against the city.
Acting on legal advice from the Association of Washington Cities, the council dropped the ban in favor of zoning regulations on the gardens, Castle Rock City Attorney Frank Randolph said.
Clark County commissioners passed a temporary moratorium July 12 to consider zoning for collective gardens.
“That tool is not meant to be used as a permanent ban,” Axel Swanson, senior policy analyst for the commissioners, said.
Kent passed a temporary moratorium in early July.