Seattle Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Given Extension to Operate

Last week the Seattle City Council unanimously approved an extension for Seattle medical marijuana dispensaries that will allow them to continue operating until either July 1, 2015 or January 1, 2016, depending on what action is taken by the Washington State Legislature in the upcoming legislative session. This news should come as a big relief to owners of Seattle dispensaries who have been unable to obtain licensure under I-502.

To date, the Washington State Legislature has failed to reconcile the state’s existing medical marijuana system withthe new I-502 recreational marijuana regime. Because recreational licenses were issued via a lottery, many established dispensary owners were left in limbo with an existing business, but no license to operate under the recreational system. The ultimate blow to the State’s medical system came in April, when the Washington State Court of Appeals held that medical marijuana activity is illegal under current State law, and upheld the City of Kent’s ban.

To accommodate dispensaries that were open before November 16, 2013, but did not win a retail license in the lottery, the City Council originally voted to allow these businesses to operate in a transitional period until January 1, 2015. At that point, the dispensaries would either need to obtain a license under I-502 or close their doors.

However, as the I-502 licensing process has slowly progressed, and the State Legislature has failed to address the fate of medical marijuana in Washington, many dispensary owners have been left unable, but certainly not unwilling, to participate in the recreational system. We hope that the City Council’s extension buys dispensary owners enough time for the State Legislature to come to a consensus on medical marijuana. However, we do have to caution everyone that there is a Washington State Appellate Court decision finding medical marijuana dispensaries illegal in Washington State.