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Mill Creek City Council passes six-month marijuana moratorium

At their regular July 23, 2013 meeting, the Mill Creek City Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a six-month moratorium on marijuana related businesses and activities within Mill Creek City limits.
Mill Creek's marijuana moratorium prohibits the production and sale of marijuana products for six months. Photo credit: News of Mill Creek.

September 1, 2013 update

The Mill Creek City Council will hold a public hearing at the City Hall to receive public testimony regarding marijuana production and sales within city limits on Tuesday September 3, 2013 at 6 pm.

On Thursday, August 29, 2013 the Federal Justice Department announced that it would not sue to block Washington State's recreational marijuana law impmementation. Brian M. Rosenthal of the Seattle Times reported, "The DOJ’s decision brings an end to months of uncertainty as Washington state has wondered whether the other Washington would sue to stop the implementation of Initiative 502, which passed with 55.7 percent of the vote."

In separate news, the Pew Research Center reported that, "Six-in-ten Americans say that the federal government should not enforce its marijuana laws in states that permit use."

Original July 27, 2013 article

At their regular July 23, 2013 meeting, the Mill Creek City Council unanimously passed an ordinance establishing a six-month moratorium on marijuana related businesses within Mill Creek City limits.

Associated with the moratorium is a September public hearing where the Mill Creek City Council will hear public testimony regarding the production and sale of marijuana products within City limits.

According to Shane Moloney, Mill Creek City Attorney, the moratorium is meant to, “put potential marijuana businesses on notice of the City's current prohibition of marijuana based businesses and land uses.”

Moloney informed the City Council that this new moratorium is necessary because City staff had recently received a number of phone calls from lawyers representing marijuana businesses and in the subsequent conversations he and other staff were unable to sufficiently explain Mill Creek’s current prohibition of said businesses in light of Washington State Initiative 502, which allows the production, sale and consumption of marijuana products.

Moloney explained that Washington’s State Initiative 502 allows municipalities, “to address environmental and community impacts (of marijuana production and sales) through local land use regulations.”

However the complexities of implementing Initiative 502 puts Mill Creek at risk even if the Mill Creek’s land use policy prohibits the growth and sale of marijuana products according to Moloney. He said, “the Liquor Control Board intends to issue I-502 based marijuana licenses without regard for whether the business will in fact comply with those local regulations.”

Maloney said the six-month moratorium would give City staff time to evaluate the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s new regulations on marijuana related businesses and the Federal Government’s response to Washington State’s marijuana laws. As well, the September public hearing will give concerned citizens a chance to voice their opinion regarding the situation.

At the end of the moratorium, Maloney will come back to the the Mill Creek Planning Commission and the City Council with suggested changes to the Mill Creek City code, which will take the new laws and regulations into account.

Maloney said the City Council has many options to consider, “If it determines that continuing to prohibit all marijuana businesses and land uses is important to protect the health, safety, and/or welfare of the community, the Council could implement code changes that explicitly maintain such prohibition.”

“Alternatively, the Council may choose to allow some or all marijuana-related businesses in specific areas of the City. Additionally, the Council may wish to consider imposing restrictions on specific types of marijuana land uses that are likely (to) have negative health, safety, or welfare impacts - such as outdoor production or sales.”

Initiative 502 legalizes adult marijuana possession and use within Mill Creek City limits. However there are many restrictions including the prohibition of displaying and/or consuming a marijuana products in view of the general public. This includes City parks.

Also, Initiative 502 does not legalize marijuana use in the workplace. A number of businesses maintain drug free work environments and their employees are subject to random drug tests.

The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office website has a very good explanation of Initiative 502's impact on Sheriff’s Officers and the public at their Marijuana FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page on their website.

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Federal Law

Possession of marijuana remains a crime under federal law. Sales, processing, and growing marijuana are all more serious crimes under federal law and carry heavier sentences.

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