The Metropolitan King County Council today approved a one-year moratorium on new medical-marijuana dispensaries and gardens in the unincorporated areas of the county.
In a unanimous vote, the council adopted the emergency legislation proposed by County Executive Dow Constantine.
The bill went through an expedited process and takes effect immediately. Constantine believed the normal process might have alerted entrepreneurs, according to a council staff analyst, who might then rush to open new facilities during the 10-day gap between when a bill is usually signed and when it takes effect.
The moratorium would not impact existing medical-marijuana facilities in unincorporated areas except that they would not be able to expand.
The idea behind the moratorium is that it allows time for state officials to reconcile the new highly regulated recreational pot industry with the largely unregulated medical system. State lawmakers are expected to tackle that task next year. The state Liquor Control Board is likely to recommend later this week that medical marijuana be sold only by qualified new recreational stores.
The city of Seattle passed a law that might effectively ban dispensaries by requiring them to have a state license by 2015. Now there are no licenses for medical marijuana facilities.
Council member Rod Dembowski said he was concerned the city’s law might lead to new medical facilities opening just outside Seattle limits in unincorporated areas of the county. Moratoria should be rare, Dembowski added, because of their implications for property rights. But he said this one was appropriate.