Washington State prohibits marijuana vape and consumption lounges and most marijuana tourism. And contrary to popular belief, it also clearly prohibits cannabis deliveries to consumers. Though Washington State now has a third-party transporter license so other cannabis licensees do not have to transport product themselves, it still does not have any state-legal delivery services from retailers to consumers.
Washington State has always had a large number of illegal marijuana delivery services. That is likely to change soon though if the City of Seattle gets its way.
We previously blogged about how the City of San Diego pursued illegal medical marijuana operators with stiff criminal charges. Seattle marijuana delivery operations will face a similar fate once SB 5052 is fully implemented by July 1 of this year. Interestingly, Seattle and King County (the county in which Seattle is located) have been at odds on how to handle illegal cannabis deliveries.
Seattle wants to pursue criminal charges against Seattle cannabis delivery services, but the King County prosecuting attorney Dan Satterberg wants to shut them down via civil sanctions. Satterberg previously threatened civil lawsuits against illegal brick and mortar collective garden operators if they failed to shut down by a date certain (because of passage of SB 5052). These threats led to fifteen dispensary outlets shutting down without any arrests or the filing of any criminal charges.
The apparent problem between the City and the County here is that even if Seattle wants to pursue criminal felony sanctions against marijuana delivery services, King County is the one that actually has to prosecute (for anything more than the lowest level criminal charges), which it may not do given Satterberg’s attitude on the issue. But Seattle is standing strong, essentially arguing to the County that civil suits and/or current regulations are not enough to snuff out illegal delivery services, and that the “credible threat of prosecution” is what local government needs if it’s going to take out this portion of the black market.
And Seattle is making good on its threats of at least low-level criminal prosecution against illegal delivery services. In April of this year, eight individuals were arrested for illegally delivering cannabis to consumers–upon those arrests, Seattle made clear that “. . . the intent is not to bust people for smoking pot, but to send a message to the owners, operators, and suppliers of the delivery services that delivery will not be tolerated as the city tries to foster the legal pot shop market.” And the eight delivery couriers were all actually charged last week, but not by King County and they weren’t charged with felonies (recall, illegal sales of cannabis without a license are, indeed, felonies under state law). The City of Seattle charged the individuals with misdemeanors (which also apply in this context) for operating a marijuana business without a license under the City’s municipal code.
If King County won’t pick up the torch on more serious criminal prosecution, we’re still likely to continue to see City-based misdemeanor charges when it comes to illegal cannabis delivery in the Emerald City.