The City of Seattle has issued over 300 cease and desist letters to dispensaries throughout the city, ordering them to shut down by July 1st, 2015, unless they can obtain a license from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, despite no such license existing for medical cannabis facilities.
On Thursday last week, the city sent out letters to all businesses deemed to be engaged in “major marijuana activity”, defined as any activity involving 45 or more plants, or more than 72 ounces of cannabis. The letter reads as follows:
Major marijuana activity is prohibited in certain zones. It is also prohibited everywhere in Seattle without a license issued by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (LCB).
Businesses that have been conducting major marijuana activity since before November 16, 2013 have until July 1, 2015 (or January 1, 2016, depending on action by the state legislature), to either: (1) obtain a state-issued license or (2) stop conducting major marijuana activity.
Any new (i.e., commencing on or after November 16,2013) major marijuana activity in Seattle must have a state license. If you began operating after November 16, 2013 and do not have a state issued license, you are in violation of City law and can be subject to enforcement action.”
The Seattle City Council voted last year to require all dispensaries to obtain a medical cannabis license from the Liquor Control Board, even though no such license exists in Washington. Council members claimed they passed such a premature restriction in anticipation of the State Legislature establishing a new regulatory system for medical cannabis in Washington – which the legislature failed to do during the last session.
Although the council unanimously voted to extend the previously-set deadline of January 1st, 2015 to the new enforcement deadline, July 1st, 2015 (or January, 2016, should the legislature create regulations during the new session next year), there still leaves little hope for dispensary owners and the patients who rely on safe access points in Seattle. Conflict surrounds the medical cannabis regulation debate, and there is no guarantee lawmakers will come to any sound conclusion or agreement on the creation of a license that could keep Seattle dispensaries (or all other dispensaries in the state) open. Unless the Seattle City Council passes another extension for the closure date, or the legislature comes to a consensus that safe access points should be licensed and continue operating, several hundred dispensaries may be shut down in the coming months.
The City of Seattle estimates that at least 5% of the city-wide population, or about 25,000 people, are medical cannabis patients. Currently Seattle has only 2 recreational cannabis outlets, which are only open part-time, due to a shortage in supply. The Washington State Liquor Control Board is not issuing any new recreational licenses at this time.
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