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Marijuana task force in Tacoma nears end of long trek


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana task force in Tacoma nears end of long trek

A task force charged with forming regulations for the two dozen or so marijuana dispensaries in Tacoma is fine-tuning a report that tackles issues such as zoning, permitting and security.
The final draft, due by the end of the month, will go to the city Planning Commission and the Public Safety Committee before landing before the City Council.
After public feedback, the council will decide which regulations to implement. It’s unknown when the new rules governing medical marijuana dispensaries will take effect.

“We want (dispensaries) to operate within the law in a way that isn’t overly intrusive but satisfies the city’s need that everything is as advertised,” said committee chairman Stan Rumbaugh, an attorney. “It’s a huge task.”
The 11-member Medical Cannabis Task Force plans to meet once more to finalize its recommendations before its term ends May 1.
Among the controversial topics the group tackled is where dispensaries and collective gardens (where marijuana is grown for medical patients) can be.
Neither will be allowed in residential neighborhoods. Collective gardens can operate only in industrial zones; dispensaries could exist downtown or in commercial and industrial areas, according to the draft plan.
All medical marijuana facilities must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, day care centers and churches. The task force also would like the distance to apply to parks, youth group centers and detoxification facilities.
Existing dispensaries are suggested to be grandfathered in, as long as they are 500 feet from schools and day cares. Dispensaries out of compliance once the City Council adopts its rules would have 120 days to move.
Members also tried to provide boundaries for the size of dispensaries.
A business devoted only to dispensing marijuana to patients would have to be between 500 and 2,000 square feet. Facilities that distribute pot but offer other services such as educational classes could be 1,500 to 3,000 square feet.
The group will recommend that hours of operation for dispensaries in the city be 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., which is similar to many private pharmacies.
Although most of the group’s recommendations have been vetted repeatedly, members still went back and forth Monday on issues including enforcement.
Patricia Lecy-Davis, a business owner, said dispensaries that offer edibles such as brownies should use commercial kitchens, although she noted it would be difficult to regulate them.
Laurie Jinkins, deputy director of the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, said that once marijuana is used in baked goods it must be regulated as medicine rather than a food.
“What this teaches me is how complicated the issues around medical marijuana and regular marijuana use are,” Jinkins said. “In every discussion, there were multiple deep layers.”
Some issues were pretty straight-forward. Among them:
• Nobody younger than 18 could operate a dispensary or be on the premises unless accompanied by an adult.
• All dispensary owners would have to submit a security plan to the city and install security cameras.
• Marijuana products could not be visible from outside the building.
• Insurance would be required for businesses that distribute pot.
Task force members said forming regulations was a daunting task but that they believed they’d done a thorough job and included input from a diverse group.
Mayor Marilyn Strickland selected the panel’s members in August, about three weeks after the City Council approved an emergency moratorium on new and existing medical cannabis dispensaries and community gardens.
The moratorium will expire Aug. 1. It was prompted after dispensaries began popping up in the city last year.
Conflicting federal and state laws have posed a major challenge in how to regulate medical marijuana facilities.
State lawmakers last year passed a measure calling for state-licensed dispensaries, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed much of the bill. The new law, which took effect in July, left dispensary regulation up to local jurisdictions.

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