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May 18, 2011 at 3:00 PM

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King County, Seattle officials ask for Olympia to fix medical marijuana law

Posted by Jonathan Martin

The top prosecutors and officials in King County and Seattle are asking the Legislature to quickly untangle the mess left by Gov. Chris Gregoire's partial veto of a medical marijuana bill.

In a letter to the four top legislative leaders, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg, county executive Dow Constantine, Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Seattle city attorney Pete Holmes said the medical marijuana law in its current state leaves them with "few good options" to control and regulate dispensaries.

"In the absence of new legislation, we at the local level will have to choose between closing down dispensaries and prosecuting the owners and workers, or allowing them to continue to multiply in an unclear regulatory environment," they wrote in a letter dated Wednesday. The letter is here.

Prosecutors elsewhere in the state see less ambiguity. Federal agents today executed "several" search warrants at dispensaries in Spokane, said Tom Rice, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney in Spokane. No arrests were made, nor were dispensary owners arrested in raids on seven dispensaries on April 29.
The intent is to shut down what Rice called "marijuana stores." Prosecutors were still considering evidence gathered in the earlier case, he said.

Gregoire veto partially vetoed a landmark bill that would have legalized dispensaries, which have boomed throughout the state. The veto gutted dispensaries' best legal defense, putting pressure on prosecutors like Satterberg.

A new bill introduced in the special session would decriminalize dispensaries, but it has not been brought to the Senate floor for a vote after a hearing in the Ways & Means committee. In their letter, the four King County leaders said inaction in Olympia will cause big headaches in the coming months.

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