Raymond City Council holds discussion on medical marijuana
With the normal opening approval of previous meeting minutes and consent agenda, the council approved a couple of resolutions, renewed a pair of ongoing contracts and heard from department heads on current projects. But the meat of the city council meeting was a lengthy discussion, which brought out the many questions in and around the use and business of medical marijuana and collective gardens in the area.
Resolution 1225 was set before the council, an interfund loan that would shift $100,000 from the Special Street fund to the Current Expense fund to help cover expenses.
Clerk/Treasure Hester Gilleland reported that an exceptionally large insurance payment created a shortfall in the 2014 Current expense fund, and a transfer was needed. The interfund loan would be paid back as soon as the B&O Tax revenue was received later in April, and additional money would be available when property taxes would start hitting the city coffers by May and June. The transfer was approved with a deadline of repayment no later than December 2014.
The next resolution on the agenda was 1226. The council is setting up a public hearing on the topic of having residents along Monohon Landing Road (that is contiguous with lots 1-10 of block M and lots 1-10 of Block Z of the replat of the Riverside subdivision) to vacate a southerly 10-foot wide strip of land. This will help protect public right-of-way and assist with private property encroachment.
The council approved the resolution setting a public hearing for May 5, 6:15 pm at the Raymond City Hall. Those with interest in Resolution 1226 are welcome to attend.
Two lease renewals were approved that of the 2-year lease of the Public Market and the second a renewal for the jail contract. Little discussion was heard other than the items are similar in nature to the previous leases and that both serve to better the community.
The public was silent on any open public comments as the majority of those assembled were on hand to discuss the business of marijuana that held a place on the agenda.
The council chamber moved into an open discussion about medical marijuana as Mayor Bob Jungar opened up with comments about how no one is doing a good job around the new business to include former Governor Christine Gregoire, as well at the current legislature who could not come to a decision before heading to recess.
The council was working off a packet prepared, as Scott Pearson of Raymond Public Works gave an overview as to the focus of the night. Attorney Will Penoyar spoke that the council could justify the allowance or dis-allowance of the medical business, that it comes down to the council making a decision as to the business its self.
With collective gardens already operating in the state for several years, Raymond also has a recent garden operating in the port. The initial question was if a patient fee should be rescinded, that was previously enacted. Pearson spoke to the current Revised Code of Washington that covers medical marijuana and pointed out that patients under a doctor’s care who have a prescription for medical cannabis are not under prosecution, as long as they follow the RCW, and need an avenue of receiving their medicine from collective gardens. Current city policy (Chapter 15.89 of the Raymond Municipal Code) has medical marijuana patients going through city officials, providing medical information for the city to verify, and paying a processing fee. Pearson further stated that with this practice it was possible that the city might get into problems under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPPA rules, and suggested that the practice may drive patients and collective gardens into an underground type of delivery system, as it is also not cost effective for the patients and that the current policy should be looked at for further possible changes.
As the discussion continued various representatives at the council further defined the valid points of the business, and that the marijuana business is already in the area. Police Chief Spoor spoke with emphasis on the need for regulations and clearer definitions. Members of the council even related personal experiences to help the discussion as to the purpose of a garden and their dealings with patients.
Pearson read some of the current state codes around collective gardens and also noted that the Raymond Code was written prior to the legalization of recreational marijuana, and needs to be revised.
Mayor Jungar took time to acknowledge members of the public who were very attentive during the council’s discussion.
Members of the public spoke to the point of how medical collective gardens are currently operating under state laws, and that they need an access point to be able to deliver the medicine. A medical marijuana patient in the audience, also noted that if they had to pay a fee they would seek their medication elsewhere, where no additional fee was required and would also spend their money on other items, like groceries, in those locations.
The discussion went on for most of an hour with several people from the public engaging questions from the council to try and explain the multifaceted business of medical marijuana. As it was an open discussion no action was taken other than the promise that a decision would be formulated in the next meeting to address the fee, that the majority of the council acknowledged was not appropriate for the patients to pay, and possibly that the city fee could be moved to the collective garden itself.
The collective garden issue is one that has several facets and is not easily understood, as with current laws, the “garden” can operate in several different ways depending on the need of the patients. The discussion did answer the fact that the city has a lot more to learn about the business of marijuana, medical or recreational, and with the state pushing licensing weekly for all levels of the marijuana both for medical and recreational, the city needs to get their policies in order to keep the possible revenue in the area. Samples of the business in Colorado were also given along with the business in areas such as Seattle. The representatives of the collective gardens also mentioned that if the fee remained that they would loose patients and have already seen several patients go out of the area seeking medicine.
The port has accepted many recreational marijuana producers and processors as well as one medical collective garden and is making money from their leases at this point. The port could lose those leases if the right decision is not made to accept the new business that will work best for everyone concerned. As the discussion waned down, the topic of looking at other municipalities, like Lacey, Washington, was addressed to see if that city had some of the answers that would fit into a Raymond policy.
Mayor Jungar brought up the fact that no matter how the policy was written, that he felt it was an expectation that the city would follow up on the collective gardens to ensure that adherence to the policy was being followed.
By the end of the open discussion, it was recommended that the fee would be addressed at the next meeting.
The mayor moved the meeting onto other agenda items and called for department head reports. The only report came from Dean Parsons, Public Works Director, who spoke on several ongoing projects and street improvements, identifying city money being spent for improvements.
The next regular Raymond City Council meeting will be held on April 21, at 6 pm.