Seattle Closing Half of all Marijuana Dispensaries
The city of Seattle has issued the first violation notices to medical marijuana businesses since Mayor Ed Murray and council members announced an initiative to regulate the industry.
Already, there is some resistance.
City attorney Pete Holmes says of the first eight businesses to receive notices, three shop owners are taking the city to court. That may signal a long, tough fight ahead for the effort to close shops that don't comply with new city and state laws.
House Bill 5052, approved by state lawmakers, requires medical marijuana businesses to close if they opened after January 2013. These newer businesses must be issued notices of violation and close by July 2016.
Before that deadline, Seattle's Department of Planning and Development is cleaning up the industry by issuing violations to businesses who don't comply with city zoning laws that require them to "establish use."
Approximately 56 of the more than 100 businesses are in violation of either city or state law.
Businesses allowed to stay open must apply for and receive a new state-issued medical marijuana license.
"We are essentially building the airplane as we fly," said Holmes. "We are going to follow through. Voters didn't simply legalize marijuana, we voted to regulate it."
But some neighborhood groups worry that issuing notices of violation isn't enough.
Taylor Hoang with the Ethnic Business Coalition says medical marijuana shops in the International District are a nuisance.
"The concern is that the city will not enforce those laws, especially for the really big offenders," she said. "We've seen a lot of crime increase in the area."
Holmes vows to keep the pressure on landlords and shop owners to comply with the law.
"As soon as we have a hammer, we will use it," he said.