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Marijuana in Seattle

Marijuana in Seattle

A little history . . .

In 2012, Washington state voters approved I-502 legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and directing the Washington State Liquor Control Board to develop a process for regulating marijuana production, processing, selling, and delivery. I-502 includes a provision creating a civil infraction for consuming marijuana in public, with a fine up to $50.

The City Council passed Ordinance 123661 in 2011, clarifying that the manufacture, production, processing, possession, transportation, delivery, dispensing, application, or administration of marijuana must comply with all applicable City laws, and that compliance with City laws does not constitute an exemption from compliance with applicable state and federal regulations.


Marijuana Zoning Legislation

Washington State approved the production and sale of marijuana for medical and recreational use in November 2012. On October 7, 2013, Council adopted where larger-scale marijuana-related activities should be limited in Seattle.

Adopted Legislation

What does the legislation do?

  • Limits are placed on where larger-scale marijuana activities can occur in Seattle. Specifically, the activities are the "processing, selling, or delivery of marijuana, marijuana-infused products, or useable marijuana."
  • The limits are consistent with the level of activity allowed for what the state defines as a single "collective garden."
  • The limits do not require a land use permit specifically to conduct marijuana-related activities. Although a property owner might need to obtain a permit to establish, for example, an agricultural or retail use, the City will not require the applicant to identify that the use is marijuana-related.
  • Generally, limits will not apply in Neighborhood Commercial 2 & 3, Commercial 1 & 2, Industrial Zones, and certain Downtown zones (detailed location breakdown, with exceptions [including special review districts] here)
  • The ordinance defines certain terminology related to marijuana in the land use code.
  • The ordinance clarifies the intent of, and impose a size limit on, indoor agricultural operations in industrial areas. This change applies to any agricultural use in industrial areas, including marijuana production.

Where do federal, state, and city limits apply?

Most marijuana-related activity remains subject to federal criminal laws throughout the nation.
State law currently regulates medical and recreational marijuana differently.

Under Initiative 502, recreational marijuana producers, processors, and retailers in Washington will have to obtain a license from the State Liquor Control Board. The Board may not issue such a license for any business within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter. As a practical matter, this will limit where recreational marijuana-related activity will occur in Seattle.
The ordinance requires existing lots, businesses, and dwelling units where marijuana-related activities are being conducted must comply with the legislation by 2015.

In addition, the proposed Seattle ordinance limits the level of marijuana-related activity that may occur in residential neighborhoods (e.g., single family zones) and other areas, such as historic districts.


Public Smoking Fines

Council adopted legislation which set the fines for smoking marijuana in public at the same level as public consumption of alcohol, $27.

The legislation:

  • Notes that the Seattle Police Department will issue a warning to offenders whenever practical before issuing a citation
  • Requires SPD to monitor enforcement by age, race, sex and locations of any citations, so Council can evaluate whether the law is being equitably enforced

Business License Tax

Council adopted legislation to clarify that the "farmer" and "agricultural product" exemptions for the business license tax do not apply to marijuana products. The business license tax is also known as the business and occupation (B&O) tax. The B&O tax does not apply to businesses with under $100,000 in annual taxable gross revenues, under legislation passed by the Council in 2009.

The tax rate is 0.215%, or $2,150 for $1 million in gross taxable revenue.

 

History

In 1998, Washington voters passed I-692, approving medical use of marijuana by patients with qualifying conditions. In 2011 the state legislature passed a bill permitting collective gardens by medical marijuana patients, and stating that cities may use their zoning authority to regulate.

The City Council passed Ordinance 123661 in 2011, clarifying that the manufacture, production, processing, possession, transportation, delivery, dispensing, application, or administration of marijuana must comply with all applicable City laws, and that compliance with City laws does not constitute an exemption from compliance with applicable state and federal regulations.

In 2012, Washington state voters approved I-502 legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and directing the Liquor Control Board to develop a process for regulating marijuana production, processing, selling, and delivery. The state is in the process of developing regulations. The Board maintains a website with information on its implementation of I-502.

 

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