City attorney calls for pot lounges and a crackdown on illegal medical shops

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.

Pete Holmes Marijuana Memo

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28 thoughts on “City attorney calls for pot lounges and a crackdown on illegal medical shops

  1. This all sounds needlessly complicated and an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist.

    Currently people are smoking pot on street corners and nothing is being done about it and its doubtful anything will (and it shouldn’t as we have more pressing matters). I highly doubt the pot-smoking tourist and rental community are refraining from usage because a lounge does not exist. Let us not kid ourselves. People will smoke pot wherever they can find a spot. They always have and always will.

    The only benefit of a “pot lounge” is so like-minded folks can gather and socialize.

    My only quibble with pot is the smell when I walk past people using it on the street, which is quite often.

    • Of course you are right, people are doing it anyway. But if you want the laws to be taken seriously, you can’t predicate real-life usage on people basically ignoring the other laws. It doesn’t do much for credibility. Plus, pot lounges where like-minded people can gather and socialize would not be such a bad thing, either.

  2. Pete is definitely correct – the law makes little sense when it comes to where pot can be consumed. Excellent that he’s trying to fix that now. Seattle is pretty blessed to have a City Attorney who is an expert on and advocate for legal marijuana.

    • Yeah. Real blessed. Totally. A city attorney obsessed with weed. He should be obsessed with prosecuting crimes, defending the city in civil actions, and writing new laws making it easier to enforce anti-social behavior. We can all cheer for a place to consume cannabis as we watch our downtown degrade into a cesspool.

      • We had city attorneys obsessed with making and enforcing laws biased against those not in the mainstream and we fortunately kicked out Mark Sidran and Tom Carr, and since we have, crime is down and the city is a better place. The ‘broken windows’ philosophy, and hate of youth culture and music venues doesn’t work.

      • Oh please. Downtown being overrun with panhandlers and bums is a good thing for the city?

        The laws of the city should be enforced, or we should repeal them. It should not be up to the city attorney to decide what’s important.

      • Crime is down in Seattle? It sounds like you have never visited the CD or the scuzzy part of Leschi. Chances are you have also missed all of the recent reports of armed robbery on Capitol Hill. Pete Holmes is a disaster.

  3. Totally in support of Pete Holmes not letting the two-tier system continue and strengthening the legal retail stores. So nice to see some action on this.

    • really? which retail store do you own? The ONLY reason a person would want medical marijuana shut down is that it takes away business from retail stores and theoretically reduces revenue from the city and state.

      • Actually, there are several reasons why the medical marijuana dispensaries should be shut down….

        1) Most do not obtain a business license, so they are totally unregulated.

        2) Most do not pay business taxes, and this is a significant loss of income for government. It’s not theoretical, it’s real.

        3) Many conduct on-site “clinics,” where for-hire medical providers give out authorizations for a fee, often without adequate medical documentation of a qualifying condition. Then that “patient” turns around and buys pot from that same dispensary. If this isn’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what is.

        4) Some of them sell pot to customers without asking for a medical card, as evidenced by a recent article in The Seattle Times.

        I don’t know why the Mayor is concerned about legitimate medical marijuana patients losing access to their medicine. Once the dispensaries are closed, they can go to the retail stores, which will have a huge incentive to stock the marijuana strains they prefer, and they can be given tax-free status to offset any additional costs.

      • that is simply not true and hasn’t been for a few years now.

        The last year that was blatantly happening at Hempfest ton of doctors got their hands slapped and the dispensaries had letters and enforcement visits from the cops.

        They are NOT a stream of income for the City. They are there to provide people with a high-grade product so they can manage a chronic issue. The stuff in the retail stores is at or below the grade of black market stuff I can get on almost any street corner in our neighborhood.

      • The only enforcement action I am aware of is that 1 or 2 naturopaths working at Hempfest were investigated by the state licensing board….and as I remember lost their license to practice. If the City did indeed investigate some dispensaries (I never read that this happened), then the only thing they could do would be to check if a medical marijuana authorization is being required of all customers. They would not have looked at the practices of the medical providers who staff the clinics, to be certain that adequate medical documentation was being sought. I suspect that usually they just take the customer’s word that they have a qualifying condition, and this would be very easy to fake. I notice that most of the dispensaries, in their ads, state that a potential customer can get a medical card by paying a fee. As I said, it’s a glaring conflict of interest.

        You did not refute my other points as to why dispensaries should be rolled into the retail system.

  4. I smoke in a pot lounge called “My Livingroom” it’s conveniently located in my apartment. I use cutting edge technology known as a fan coupled with incense. I asked my neighbors and they said they don’t smell pot smoke or incense. Problem solved. Can we focus on real laws now?

  5. It’s a tricky issue. The reality of most renters is that we’re in a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” phase of things. As long as no one complains (including the building manager), no harm, no foul. But I’m afraid that legalizing public consumption of pot will inadvertently place marijuana in the same province of cigarettes, which is very much forbidden (and will be complained about) in apartments.
    The fact is, pot smokers do love smoking in their own space (to hang out with friends, watch movies and listen to music, etc), Another factor to consider is that pot smoke and cigarette smoke are two different things in regards of lingering and permanent odors.
    As Gary noted, the old incense and fan set up usually does the trick to keep the odor wafting into the hallway. Or to be safe, you can blow your smoke into the bathroom fan. But in the long term…maybe we just need to get used to its smell. I’ll say it’s nowhere as noxious as cigarette smoke, but of course that’s an entirely subjective and biased opinion.
    When you yell “But it’s the law!!”, well, you’re in the right. But the law and the practical reality of things don’t always converge.

    • Aaaaaah, no, please, pot is not less troublesome as secondhand smoke than cigarette smoke is. Even putting aside the pot-nature, *smoke* is pretty bad for a lot of people.

      However, for people who *do* want it, I agree there should be lounges with great air-filters. Or smoking-allowed apartment buildings with great air-filters (and firewalls?), sort of like pet-allowed apartment buildings with roof runs.

      • I fully agree with you. Smoke and secondhand smoke do pose a health risk to others. So we’re at a crossroads here. Does pot smoking go the way of the full restrictions that we have for cigarettes? The best solution is your idea of great air-filters/firewalls for “smoke friendly” apartments, but I doubt most building owners would foot the bill for that, unless there’s a big profit motive for them. The reality is that pot smoking in apartments will likely remain a discrete activity where smokers *ideally* do their utmost to ensure their smoke does not enter hallways. How effective these methods are, I can’t say.

        When I compared tobacco to pot smoke, I was referring more to the semi-permanent “odor stain” that tobacco leaves, as opposed to pot smoke. Anecdotely, I find pot smoke leaves much less of a permanent odor compared to tobacco smoke. But such an assertion would definitely need a good old fashioned study, without the pro or anti-pot confirmation biases.

        We need a scientist here!

      • Smokers who are canny enough to *actually* hide the evidence of smoke are fine with me — but often someone in the airwell is mildly miserable on a regular basis, but doesn’t want to get their neighbor actually evicted.

        This seems like a good argument for edibles.

  6. The hordes of cigarette smokers on the sidewalks of Seattle are incomparably more annoying than the occasional pot smoker. As dysfunctional as this city is, does Holmes really need to waste everyone’s time with a crusade like this?

    And with a title like “MOVING MARIJUANA POLICY FORWARD” you know without even reading it that Holmes’s memo moves marijuana policy backward.

  7. I am strongly against criminal sanctions for violations of drug prohibition, particularly for something as innocuous as cannabis. However, having read the Holmes/Holcomb/Schochet memo, I see lots of rational arguments and reasonable responses to likely objections being raised. If you’re interested in this topic, I suggest reading it.

  8. I am glad that he is working on addressing the unregulated medical shops for the reasons already in the comments, and also glad he is working to be able to more strictly enforce laws about public consumption. Many of us voted for legalization because we did not want people to be jailed for marijuana use, but that vote was with the understanding (now ignored) that we would not be subjected to public consumption. I do not want to breathe marijuana smoke. It gives me terrible asthma attacks and even the thirdhand residue (sometimes massive) of stoners on the Metro buses is sometimes overwhelming. I also do not want to be exposed to drugs, and I’m really tired of the people who say I and others should just get used to it. Just because I don’t want someone in jail for their drug use or for use that they say helps with chronic conditions, does not mean I should have to breathe your weed. I’m glad someone is working on making things easier for those of us who feel that way.

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  11. People who drink have bars to socialize but I hate being around drunks, It would be nice to have lounge to socialize with other pot users.