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Now that marijuana is legal, Seattle wants private pot clubs

By Jonathan Kaminsky

OLYMPIA, Washington (Reuters) - Seattle officials are recommending that Washington state authorize private marijuana clubs and examine allowing home delivery of the drug, as they work out rules for a recreational pot market, according to a letter sent to state regulators.

The recommendations sent by the Seattle city attorney with the blessing of the city's mayor are among the hundreds received by the state's Liquor Control Board before a Monday deadline for public comment on draft rules issued.

Voters in Washington state and Colorado in November became the first in the nation to approve taxing and regulating marijuana sales at the state level. Pot remains illegal under federal law, although it remains unclear whether the Obama administration will move to block the states from implementing their recreational markets.

Proposals for private pot clubs have been controversial in Washington state and Colorado, even while personal possession of the drug is already allowed in both states.

A letter sent to the Liquor Control Board on Monday from Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, which a mayoral spokesman said also represents the views of Mayor Mike McGinn, also said that marijuana consumption clubs should be provided to tourists and renters whose landlords do not permit marijuana use.

"We don't want to limit it to where homeowners are in a special, better class, and have the result be that (other) people are using it in the streets," John Schochet, deputy chief of staff to Holmes, said in a phone interview.

Seattle officials also warned that draft rules keeping marijuana stores at least 1,000 feet from multiple-route bus shelters would make "nearly every arterial and commercial zone in Seattle" off-limits.

Cautioning that this "might have the unintended consequence of driving the Seattle marijuana market back underground," the Seattle officials recommended that the rule be relaxed to only include 13 public transit centers.

Liquor Control Board spokesman Brian Smith said the board was unlikely to take up the issue of private pot clubs or delivery services, as they fall outside its licensing purview. But he said there may be room for cities such as Seattle to allow such clubs to operate, assuming the establishments do not sell alcohol.

The rules keeping marijuana businesses 1,000 feet from such sites as transit centers "are cut-and-dried" and unlikely to be changed, Smith said.

Because of the number and quality of recommendations it has received, the Liquor Control Board will push back the release of its next draft rules by about two weeks, until July 3, Smith said.

It will file the official pot industry rules in August and plans to start accepting applications for licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana in September. Retail marijuana stores are expected to open in the state next year.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis, Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)

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