In 2013 we called it the renter’s paradox: Washington has legal pot, but many people, including renters and tourists, don’t have a place to “legally” use it. At the time, City Attorney Pete Holmes said the legislature needed to address the issue. This week, Holmes issued a wide-ranging memo urging the legislature to make legal pot reforms, including allowing for “marijuana use lounges.”
Single family homeowners have a legal place to consume marijuana; others, however, such as out-of-town visitors, the homeless, and renter and condominium owners whose building do not permit marijuana use, have fewer options. Enforcement against public marijuana use will be more effective if people have alternative locations to use marijuana legally.
With a prohibition against using marijuana “in view of the general public,” the situation has left some conscientious renters and tourists wondering where they can technically smoke-up.
Holmes envisions the new lounge businesses would be 21 and over, allowed to sell food but not alcohol, and restricted to vaporizers and edibles. Since legal pot can’t be used where it’s sold, lounge customers would have to bring their own product.
The Seattle City Council would also have to exempt such lounges from a local ban on e-cigarettes. Holmes said city council member Nick Licata is already working on legislation to do that.
Holmes issued his memo a week before legislators convene for their 2015 session on Monday. The session will be the first for Capitol Hill resident Rep. Brady Walkinshaw, since he ran unopposed in November for Sen. Jaime Pederson’s 43rd District seat.
In no uncertain terms, Holmes also said the Legislature needed to take action to fold the state’s medical marijuana system into the highly regulated I-502 framework.
“Licensing commercial marijuana activity outside the I-502 system … would send a message that the City endorses a parallel but different system for such activity, perhaps conflicting with state law and undercutting arguments for legislation at the state level,” Holmes wrote in his memo. “We cannot go back, and we can no longer delay: commercial marijuana activities outside state licensing and regulation must cease.”
In a statement released last week, Mayor Ed Murray said he too wanted to see the Legislature further regulate medical marijuana, but did not want to limit access to deserving patients. “Shutting down all collective gardens is not the right solution because it leaves our patients out in the cold,” he said.
In the meantime, 2015 could see the opening of the first I-502 marijuana store on Capitol Hill as Tok makes plans to open on 15th Ave E.