Sammamish continues ban on marijuana gardens

December 19, 2012

By Caleb Heeringa

With the state still grappling with the implications of pot legalization, the Sammamish City Council elected not to rock the boat for a fourth time at their Dec. 11 meeting.

On a 6-1 vote, the council decided to extend a six-month moratorium on collective marijuana gardens, which were authorized under the state’s 2011 medical marijuana law. The law allows up to 10 medical marijuana patients to pool their doctor’s authorization and grow up to 45 marijuana plants.

The federal government has threatened to prosecute local jurisdictions that approve such operations, though Issaquah and other cities have gone ahead anyway.

The recent legalization measure, I-502, makes possession of marijuana legal, but not growing it for personal use. Collective gardens are the only legal way to grow marijuana under state law.

Sammamish has elected to pass a temporary moratorium on the gardens in hopes that the state legislature and federal government reach consensus on the matter. Sammamish Police Chief Nate Elledge has told the council he’d prefer to ban the gardens out right because of the potential that they attract violent burglary attempts.

Councilman Ramiro Valderrama was the lone dissenting vote, echoing Elledge’s concerns about crime and saying the city should institute a permanent ban rather than kicking the can down the road.

“We continue to see (the moratorium) brought up every six months,” Valderrama said. “In the year and half that it’s been brought up, no one has ever come to speak on (collective gardens’) behalf.”

Other councilmembers said they were content with the temporary measure until the issue gained some clarity, since crafting the language for a ban would have to go to the city’s Planning Commission, which has a full calendar for 2013.

“We have more important things to put on the Planning Commission’s agenda,” councilman Don Gerend said.

The measure extends the moratorium through July 18, 2013.

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