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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 14 - Volume 42 Issue 46
Mayor announces medical marijuana symposium to be held November 20
Section One
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Mayor announces medical marijuana symposium to be held November 20

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has announced a medical marijuana symposium to be held November 20, in City Hall's Bertha Knight Landes Room. The symposium will start at 5:00 p.m. and run till 7:45 p.m.

While marijuana has been used to alleviate symptoms of HIV/AIDS and side effects of medications since the early days of the epidemic, medical marijuana only became legal in Washington state in 2011.

The 2011 law would have created a statewide registry of patients eligible to buy marijuana, but after the U.S. Attorney's office threatened that state workers who compiled such a registry might be prosecuted under federal drug laws, then-Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed the registry.

Because there is no registry, all the existing state law allows for is what is called an 'affirmative defense' in case patients or dispensary workers are prosecuted.

An affirmative defense means that if you are caught with marijuana, then you are not protected by state law. The burden is on you to prove you are a medical marijuana patient or were providing medical marijuana to a patient. In other words, it would be as if pharmacists had to prove they were supplying prescribed drugs to valid patients or face federal drug charges.

In March the Washington Court of Appeals ruled that the City of Kent may ban medical marijuana dispensaries for this reason. The court said that absent a statewide registry, dispensaries are illegal, and Kent has the right to pass ordinances against such unlawful activity.

According to the Mayor's office, Murray does not want to shut down medical marijuana facilities in Seattle. In fact, he is promising 'to increase protections for medical marijuana patients and establish a common-sense regulatory framework to govern where and how these businesses operate in Seattle,' according to a statement released November 13.

The City Hall symposium is part of Murray's plan to draft a City of Seattle ordinance to regulate medical marijuana. The mayor plans to submit a draft ordinance to the City Council by the end of the year, his office said.

'We are still looking to Olympia to enact broad medical marijuana reform next session, but we need to take action here in Seattle to address immediate concerns of patients, businesses and neighbors,' said Murray. 'Even if the state acts, we know implementation could stretch into 2016. We don't want patients and businesses waiting in limbo, even as they face increasing legal risks.'

The symposium will be chaired by Patricia Lally, Director of the Office of Civil Rights, and will feature panel discussions on related topics, including:

o Testing of marijuana products for purity and strength,

o Best practices for manufacturing marijuana-infused products,

o Packaging and labeling requirements, and

o The location of dispensaries and collective gardens.

The panels will include patient advocates and medical providers, marijuana business representatives, testing providers, community representatives and city agency leaders, the Mayor's office said.

Those unable to attend will be able to submit questions through the Mayor's website: www.seattle.gov/mayor.

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