Patients using medical marijuana will likely need to continue to look outside the city limits of Port Orchard for their medicine.
The Port Orchard City Council Tuesday agreed to change the city’s business licensing code and effectively prohibit both medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens.
The change to the city’s code would prohibit Port Orchard from issuing a business license to any business that operates outside of “federal law.”
Since marijuana — medical or otherwise — is deemed a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance and has no federally recognized medical purpose, selling or distributing the drug for any purpose is illegal at the federal level.
Many in the Washington state legal community say that simply outlawing collective marijuana gardens is a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act under current state law and that cities and counties within Washington state may only zone the medicinal gardens, much like opiate treatment facilities.
The council will make a final decision on allowing collective gardens or dispensaries after holding a public hearing at this week’s regularly scheduled council meeting at 7 p.m. on July 24.
The decision would end a year-long moratorium on medical marijuana and collective gardens, put in place to give city staff more time to develop appropriate zoning regulations and study state and federal laws.
The Port Orchard Planning Commission, an eight-member advisory board appointed by the mayor, was tasked a year ago to bring forth a set of alternatives for regulating collective gardens and dispensaries.
The planning commission met Monday night to discuss the alternatives and recommended banning collective gardens and dispensaries outright, saying the federal law supersedes city law and that no further action was needed.
Port Orchard City Council Member John Clauson said he preferred changing business code to other alternatives offered by the planning commission, because it avoids the hassle of changing zoning restrictions to prohibit dispensaries and gardens.
“We avoid all of that if we amend business code,” Clauson said.
The planning department at the City of Bremerton is expected to recommend allowing collective gardens when their moratorium ends.
Council members Jerry Childs and Jim Colebank also voiced their support of amending business law.
Before the discussion, city attorney Gregory Jacoby asked for a 25-minute executive session with the council to discuss legal issues regarding medical marijuana. When the group returned, Jacoby outlined eight alternatives to moving forward, starting with allowing up to 40 dispensaries in city limits. Included in the city’s packet of alternatives was an article published by the Tacoma News Tribune outlining how small towns like Pasco, Kennewick and other Washington state cities have prohibited collectives.
At least three medical marijuana collective gardens operate just outside of city limits in South Kitsap and at least one is blooming in Central Kitsap.
Dwayne Hawk, a co-founder of the nonprofit collective grow operation New Image Health and Wellness on Mile Hill Drive, said not only is the city depriving individuals of medicine they need, but also missing out on an opportunity for tax revenue through donations the grow operations receive from patients.
“I would think the city could take a lot of money in through taxes,” he said.
Not allowing collective gardens because of federal law is another example in a long string of passing the buck, Hawk said.
Hawk and his partner, Ben Bray, have spent a large amount of money on legal fees trying to navigate federal, state and county law, Hawk said. And as long as the state and federal government don’t come to a clear consensus on medical marijuana, their nonprofit will constantly remain in limbo.
“It’s insane,” Hawk said. “We try to stay on top of the laws.”