Tacoma Dispensaries Deemed a Public Nuisance, But Fate of City’s 35 MMJ Centers Unclear

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At first glance, the ordinance passed by officials in Tacoma, Washington, yesterday seems pretty cut-and-dry: Medical marijuana dispensaries are now considered a public nuisance and must close shop in the coming days.

But it’s not as simple as that, and the future is still uncertain for the city’s three dozen storefront cannabis centers.

Despite enacting what is for all intents and purposes a ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, Tacoma officials appear poised to allow some wiggle room, as best we can tell.

For one, it’s unclear how aggressive the city will be in enforcing the new measure, especially against dispensaries that avoid generating complaints from the public or nearby businesses. The city is working with police to come up with a way to enforce the ordinance, but the strategy will allegedly include parts of a previously passed initiative that makes marijuana-related infractions the lowest priority for police. The big question: If a dispensary is in good-standing with its neighbors and operates below the radar – and if going after these centers is a low priority anyway – will the city overlook the operation and allow it to stay in business? Perhaps. That’s essentially what Tacoma is doing when it comes to cultivation operations, after all.

Local officials also indicated that it’s unlikely dispensaries will be raided and said existing centers could stay in business if they adopt the collective model allowed for growers, which essentially means becoming a place where patients “share responsibility and engage in the production, processing and/or delivery of marijuana for medical use.”

Tacoma officials believe this is the best strategy as they walk a fine line between providing patients with access to medical marijuana and avoiding federal prosecution of state employees and businesses. While the new ordinance will certainly hurt the city’s MMJ industry, it hopefully won’t destroy it.