Seattle will close dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries operating without a license, the city’s mayor said on Tuesday, part of a statewide effort to reconcile the unregulated system with the voter-approved recreational pot industry.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray outlined a series of regulatory changes in how cannabis operations will do business in the city, saying the rules will improve the marketplace for patients who depend on medical marijuana.
“We’re strengthening the recreational marijuana market and creating safer, more consistent access for those who rely on medicinal products,” Murray said at a news conference.
While marijuana remains illegal under federal law, voters in Washington state and Colorado approved recreational cannabis use in landmark votes in 2012 that ushered in retail stores offering a range of products to adults.
But in Washington, a loosely controlled medical marijuana industry legalized in 1998 has run alongside the highly taxed and regulated recreational-use system.
Last month, Governor Jay Inslee signed a bill to overhaul the medical industry to move it in line with the recreational marketplace.
The changes in Seattle, which will take place over the next 13 months, are part of an effort to transition medical businesses into the framework of the recreational law, city leaders said.
The new rules, expected to be approved by the City Council, will require both medical and recreational storefronts to obtain business licenses specific to the industry.
Storefronts doing business without a license will be able to apply for a city or state permit by July, 2016. Dozens of businesses that cannot obtain a license or that have been doing business without paying taxes will close, Holmes said.
City officials said there are currently about 300 medical operations in Seattle.
The changes also include enforcement action aimed at preventing medical sales to people under the age of 21 and non-qualifying patients.
(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere in Seattle; Editing by Michael Perry)