Seattle Lawyer Challenges Medical Pot Ordinance on Dispensary Regulation, Oversight

A Seattle attorney has filed suit against a new ordinance that calls for the city to tax, oversee and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the region, calling the initiative unconstitutional.

While similar lawsuits have popped up in cities with medical pot laws across the country, this one is particularly interesting because of who filed it: Douglas Hiatt, a medical cannabis defense attorney and general pot advocate.

The marijuana industry has welcomed regulations in other cities and states because it helps legitimize the business and sets up a state-approved pot distribution framework that lowers the chance of federal prosecution. So one would think that Seattle’s cannabis community would be just as receptive, especially when so many cities in MMJ states are starting to ban dispensaries outright. The Seattle ordinance also has the backing of some big, influential names: Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and city attorney Pete Holmes.

Hiatt, however, has a big problem with the new ordinance, saying it essentially means dispensaries will be admitting that they are engaging in an illegal activity and leaves them without a legal defense if prosecuted. He also argues that the city has no right to enact such an ordinance under state MMJ laws.

The situation in Seattle highlights how fractured the medical pot industry is internally. Different groups have disparate agendas and differing views on how medical marijuana should be regulated, and even whether it should be at all. That’s led to conflicts around the country.

In Seattle, several industry advocates criticized Hiatt’s lawsuit, saying that it’s a slap in the face to politicians who are trying to support medical marijuana. The same situation played out in Colorado, where some cannabis groups opposed the adoption of new regulations on the industry, while others supported it.

This has made it difficult for the industry to present a united front against efforts to limit its growth or bury it all together. Internal conflicts also could make other city leaders fearful of backing MMJ legislation, as they might walk into a minefield if they do.

3 comments on “Seattle Lawyer Challenges Medical Pot Ordinance on Dispensary Regulation, Oversight
  1. Jake on

    We are a big part of the medical cannabis community and completely disagree with what Douglas is doing. There is a major agenda being set up here. I think there are some valid points made by Doug, but HOW DOES THE SEATTLE ORDINANCE HURT PATIENTS? This is a scare tactic to set up his next move, I hope this gets shot down immediately. Thanks Douglas!

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  2. Tia on

    Medical cannabis is NOT LEGAL in the State of Washington; it is simply an affirmative defense. The defense can be equated to justifiable homicide: it is still illegal to kill another, but if you can prove a certain fact pattern, then the court will excuse your conduct,and you will not be found guilty of committing murder.

    The state or federal government can still charge anyone for the possession, use, sale, manufacture, or delivery of marijuana, although,the federal government doesn’t usually get involved for small amounts of marijuana. Current medical cannabis laws in the State of Washington does not afford for the transfer of marijuana for profit. Profit means gaining anything of value including status. Selling marijuana in a dispensary setting or on the street corner is still illegal in the State of Washington. So, why would anyone want a record of a commission of a crime?
    The affirmative defense does not protect an individual or property from police powers. State and federal law enforcement can still investigate, search, detain, and seize, both patients and property. When there is a police action the accused is subject to having their lives turned upside down. Patients must submit to a search of their bodies and possibly their dwellings. Patients may be subject to a search of their homes by armed police officers who may destroy property without repercussions. Bystanders living with medical cannabis users may be traumatized for life. Bank accounts, real estate, and personal possessions may be seized and subject a civil forfeiture. There is no constitutional right to assigned counsel for civil forfeiture actions, so if you can find an attorney to take the case you will have to either pay for his/her services, or sign a contingent fee agreement allowing for the attorney to take 1/3 of your property, if you do not substantially prevail. Even when you win and the state has to pay your attorney fees… your property including real property (via a lien) can be tied up for years.
    Marijuana must be taken off the schedule 1 status,or face criminal charges.
    Finally, when you allow individual municipalities to regulate a state law, it may backfire with cities banning it entirely,or forcing stringent regulations that would make trying to abide by the ordinance cost prohibited. It isn’t up to the cities to determine whether or not to allow dispensary sales in their jurisdiction. Plus,there is no tax on prescription medication. Go Figure.

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