Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland said she’ll ask the City Council next week to set a moratorium on new medical-marijuana shops and growing operations.
That idea, pitched Thursday at a council committee meeting, still leaves open the question of whether Tacoma will regulate dozens of existing marijuana sellers, or crack down on them.
Councilman Marty Campbell predicted the council is headed toward having some kind of licenses and standards for sales. Rules might limit their size and keep them away from schools and churches, for example.
“I think we’ve moved beyond the discussion about whether or not we’re going to do medical marijuana,” Campbell said, calling it “something we see as part of our city.”
In both Seattle and Tacoma, many sellers are now billing themselves as collective gardens, a new category created by a state law that took effect last week.
Tacoma city staff told the council Thursday the new law allows cities to regulate the production, processing and dispensing of medical marijuana through zoning codes, health rules, business licenses and taxes.
Councilwoman Victoria Woodards called for a task force to sort out what the council should do, saying its decision should help patients and keep them safe.
Strickland offered similar sentiments.
“We’re headed in a direction that will allow patients safe access,” she said after the meeting.
More skeptical is Councilman Joe Lonergan: “The federal government says it’s still illegal, so how do we reconcile that?” he said.
Tacoma should petition the federal government to move marijuana out of the category that contains the most harmful drugs, Councilwoman Lauren Walker said.
While the council mulls it all over, the city’s staff are moving to shut down more than 30 marijuana dispensaries. Shops are staying open during appeals, a process that is likely to take months more.
Other cities are moving in different directions. Seattle will treat medical marijuana shops like other businesses under an ordinance signed this week by Mayor Mike McGinn.
Other cities, including Federal Way and Kent, have set temporary bans.
Tacoma may also adopt a moratorium on new businesses, though it’s unclear if it would make a practical difference.
City lawyers have already advised licensing staff to deny new business licenses to dispensaries, Deputy City Attorney Jon Walker said.
Such bans typically last six months. Strickland said Tacoma has enough to deal with among the 50 or so dispensaries that are already open.
“I think there’s definitely enough dispensaries to serve the patients that need it,” Woodards said.
Kent Underwood, a lawyer for several medical-marijuana sellers, said the council shouldn’t decide the quantity of shops.
“I think market forces will take care of the number,” he said.