Last week Seattle’s medical marijuana dispensaries began receiving letters saying they need to get licenses or face closure. Only one problem; the city has not yet begun issuing said licenses. Seattle has more than 300 medical marijuana dispensaries but the regulation of these medical shops is far less stringent than recreational shops.
Karl Keich, owner of Seattle Medical Marijuana Association says, “Countless patients who rely on my services will have nowhere to go if my shop is shut down.” Keich says he has paid more than $150,000 in taxes to the state of Washington along with additional taxes to local government.
The state of Washington has implemented it’s own unique approach to full legalization in contrast to Colorado’s recreational cannabis laws. Colorado issued trust to existing medical marijuana dispensaries and allowed them to simultaneously exist in both a medical and recreational capacity. Washington’s loose laws around the medical marijuana program pushed the state to separate medical and recreational dispensaries entirely. Both states, however, are facing some of the same problems. Medical marijuana is being bought by consumers, then redistributed on the black market.
Back in May, Seattle Attorney Pete Holmes wrote an op-ed urging lawmakers to merge the marijuana programs into one system. “We must ultimately fold medical marijuana producers and stores into a common statewide regulatory system,” Holmes wrote.
The letters gives Seattle dispensaries until July, 1 2015 to get their licenses. The letter says, “If you began operating after Nov. 16, 2013 and do not have state issued license, you are in violation of City law and can be subjected to enforcement action.”
Although the appropriates licenses to operate don’t yet exist, local government officials say they have given both themselves and dispensaries a large enough window to sort through it all. The deputy director of Seattle’s Department of Finance and Administrative Services, Denise Movius, who authored the letter spoke towards this issue, saying, “The dates set by the City Council, which are in place today, provide ample time for the State to take action and provide some guidance both for the businesses and local jurisdictions.”
Both Washington and Colorado have faced hurdles in their first months of legalization and there will certainly be more to come. The friction between dispensaries and government has remained at an amicable level as a whole, and more cooperation will lead to more progress in legitimizing this new industry for the rest of the country.
Photo Credit: Seattle Times