Kent City Council to vote on medical marijuana collective gardens ban June 5

A woman opposes the Kent City Council
A woman opposes the Kent City Council's proposed ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens prior to a May 14 Council committee meeting. The full council votes June 5 on the ban.
— image credit: STEVE HUNTER, Kent Reporter

The Kent City Council is expected to vote Tuesday night on a controversial ban of medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens.

The seven-member council appears to be split about the proposed ordinance with four members reportedly in favor of the ban and three against it. The council meeting starts at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

If the council passes the ban, medical marijuana advocates promise to file a lawsuit Wednesday in King County Superior Court for an injunction to stop the ban on behalf of two collective gardens in the city, Evergreen Association of Collective Gardens and Herbal Choice Caregivers.

"We'll have it done and filed by June 6," said John Worthington, a medical marijuana supporter who already has the filing papers ready to go, during a phone interview. "It's too bad. It's a waste of city money."

In an email to the Kent Reporter about the potential lawsuit, Worthington wrote, "Get ready city of Kent, we are not blowing smoke."

Attorney Douglas Hiatt, representing Evergreen Association of Collective Gardens, also has promised to file suit. Hiatt said state law allows medical marijuana use and the city cannot override state law with a ban.

"It's clear to me that state law does not allow you to do what you're doing if you decide to enact a total ban," Hiatt said at a May 14 public hearing about the proposed ban in front of the council's Economic and Community Development Committee.

That committee voted 2-1 to adopt the ban, sending the proposal to the full council. Council members Bill Boyce and Deborah Ranniger voted for the ban. Jamie Perry opposed it.

Medical marijuana advocates have flooded council members with phone calls and emails in an attempt to get them to oppose the ban.

"We're getting dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails and most are from medical marijuana patients," said Council President Dennis Higgins during a phone interview. "The number in favor I can count on one finger."

State Reps. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, and Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle, co-sponsored with Sensible Washington, a Seattle-based group that supports marijuana legalization, to send a letter Friday to the City Council to vote down the proposed ban.

Sensible Washington, the group behind the petition in Kent and other cities to make marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority, plans a rally at 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall to oppose the medical marijuana dispensary ban.

Higgins said he opposes the ban. Higgins joined Perry and Elizabeth Albertson in favor of a zoning ordinance for collective gardens that failed to get a majority vote in January. The three also voted in January against the current six-month moratorium to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

Council members Boyce, Ranniger, Les Thomas and Dana Ralph voted in favor of the six-month moratorium and are in favor of the proposed ban. They favor a ban because federal law prohibits the use of marijuana, even though state law allows medical marijuana use. Boyce has said he favors a ban rather than passing another moratorium.

Higgins said it looks like the ban will pass on a 4-3 vote.

"I don't expect it to change but it would be a happy surprise," Higgins said.

The council will vote on the ban under the other business part of the meeting's agenda. There is no public hearing, but those who attend the meeting can comment during the public comment period scheduled on the agenda before the vote on the ban.

"I'm not in favor of casual use or criminal activity," Higgins said. "But I think we have a responsibility to provide access to those with legitimate medical need."

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke supports a ban of medical marijuana dispensaries and collective gardens.

"Until medical marijuana is legal in some form at the federal level, it'll create a disconnect on enforcement no matter how far our state liberalizes the law," Cooke said.

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