Public voices support, criticism of collective garden ban at Maple Valley City Council meeting
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
July 3, 2012 · 8:56 AM
The Maple Valley City Council’s ban on collective gardens received strong criticism and threats of a lawsuit at its June 25 meeting, though there were several people who voiced their support for it.
Jay Berneburg, attorney for Green Society Group owner Chris Schoonover, again urged the council that a ban would not solve any of the issues the city is dealing with.
“You want to ban collective gardens and marijuana dispensaries,” Berneburg said. “If you’re wanting to ban the flagrant use of marijuana and flouting the law, we support that. But don’t ban medical marijuana…What we have here is we have a business and others throughout the Puget Sound that are medical facilities that deal with serious medicine. It can be done sanely. You don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathtub.”
He also advised the council to create a task force similar to the one created by the Tacoma City Council in order to study the subject before voting on it.
Berneburg also pointed out, as at the previous council meeting, that the city’s Planning Commission voted not to approve the proposed ban, which he said the city expected them to “fill in the blanks” for.
“It didn’t work out that way for you, did it?” he said. “You need to listen…This ban has real faces, good people, if you ban it, it’s possible there’s people who are going to be hurt. You’re hurting real people who are serving real patients. If you want to ban pot shops, please do. But don’t ban medical facilities…You don’t regulate by prohibiting, you regulate by regulating. You meet with people and you come up with rules. You guys can do that. That’s what the voters of Washington state want.”
Steve Sarich, who works for an organization which provides information to medical marijuana patients called CannaCare in Kent, stated he would sue the city if the council passed a ban.
“If you think we’re kidding for one moment, you’re absolutely incorrect,” Sarich said.
John Worthingon stated the city does not have the authority to ban collective gardens and to do so is “breaking the law.” He also stated that Section 8-85 D in the Controlled Substance Act (CSA) would give city employees immunity from federal prosecution.
“I get it,” Worthington said. “People think it’s optional…I was busted by a drug task force. I don’t mind coming and speaking my mind. You think like Reagan Dunn thinks that it’s just a small smudge of people. You’ve got to go along with the will of the people. We have to fight for ourselves. I hope you don’t take it personal, but you’re doing the wrong thing.”
One of those who spoke in favor of the ban was Maple Valley resident Darrell Westover.
“It’s a federal law that it’s illegal,” he said. “I don’t think the Maple Valley Council should put themselves and the city at odds with the federal government at this point. I still don’t agree you people (medical marijuana advocates) should take this particular position. I certainly don’t think we need any more growers here, if they’re a collective or not. If you go under craigslist and look under farmer, practically every day there’s a person who has marijuana for sale, supposedly for medical marijuana. But if you look at the price they’re charging there has to be money involved.”
Another person who spoke in support of the ban was Shannon Gilmore, who said her family just moved to Maple Valley from Portland, where she said collective gardens were a problem.
“I know there were burglaries,” Gilmore said. “We were trying to get away from that type of environment. I do understand that it is helpful to other people, but they aren’t getting it now. I did use marijuana in my younger years. I know the effects it can have. I would like it to not be here in Maple Valley.”
Among the opponents included several people from the medical community, such as Toni Mills, who said she has worked as a nurse for 20 years and believes it is a legitimate medicine.
“I’ve seen first hand the benefits (of medical marijuana),” Mills said. “In order to obtain a medical prescription for medical marijuana, you have to meet strict guidelines. What is safer? Our pharmacies, or GSG that provides medication for some of my terminally ill patients here? I hope you will not follow suit with Kent and ban this and discriminate against these people.”
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at email@example.com or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.