SEATTLE – With Washington state overhauling its medical marijuana law, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray says the city is planning to shutter dozens of dispensaries.
Murray on Tuesday announced plans to require a new special business license for marijuana establishments, akin to those required for taxi operators and pawn shops. Under the mayor’s plan the businesses will be required to obtain the licenses by July 2016.
Murray said he hopes the new legislation will prevent pot sales to minors and also prevent abuse of the medical marijuana products.
The Mayor estimates about half of the city’s currently unregulated marijuana establishments could be forced to close, under his new regulations.
“It will preserve access for patients who need medical marijuana, while protecting the legal retailers from being undercut from unfair and unlicensed competition,” he said.
The Mayor’s proposal is an effort to bring the city in line with new state rules, recently signed into law by the governor.
Many medical marijuana patients have expressed concerns about new state regulations that crack down on unregulated dispensary sales.
Patients worry the new law, which takes effect in 2016, will mean higher prices and less variety.
But just as the state’s new medical marijuana law gives priority in licensing to dispensaries that were in operation before Jan. 1, 2013, so does Murray’s proposal. Seattle officials say that by their tally, 54 of the city’s 99 medical marijuana storefronts opened after that date or have been operating without a city business license.
Murray’s office says those businesses won’t be getting the special license and need to shut down. The rest will be allowed to remain open long enough to see if they wind up being permitted by the state.