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Medical Marijuana Gardens in Bellevue Kept Away from Schools, Churches in Interim Rules

The city passed an interim ordinance Monday night to give officials six months to gather public input on marijuana collective gardens.

Medical marijuana collective gardens in Bellevue will be regulated under an interim city ordinance that passed Monday night.

Several council members expressed support for the interim zoning regulations as a way to keep marijuana collective gardens from emerging in residential neighborhoods before adequate permanent municipal rules are in place.

City officials plan to gather more information over the next six months to consider whether any existing city laws need to be changed and to develop permanent regulations, according to the city.

Under the state law passed in 2011 that allows for medical marijuana collective gardens, up to 10 qualifying patients may join together to grow a maximum of 45 plants, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington.

While patients may grow their own marijuana in a collective garden, dispensaries that distribute marijuana, allowed in some states, are not allowed in this state, the center reported. According to the Washington Department of Health, the state law provides protection from arrest for qualified patients and designated caregivers who are complying with the law. People who qualify have a valid reason to possess a 60-day supply of marijuana, according to the state.

The interim zoning ordinance passed Monday allows the gardens in areas zoned light industrial, general commercial and medical institution, and prohibits them within 1,000 feet of schools and churches, according to a city news release. 

The interim ordinance was passed to ensure that such gardens don’t harm residential neighborhoods, according to city officials. The ordinance calls for a public hearing regarding the zoning regulations by July 2.

Marijuana has been reported to be helpful in alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, anorexia, and their treatments, and helps with controlling seizures and the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, according to the list of accepted medical reasons written in the state law. It is not allowed for psychiatric conditions, such as bipolar disorder or anxiety, according to a document posted to the Department of Health.

Bellevue’s interim zoning ordinance states that it is intended to prevent “new uses that are incompatible with nearby existing land uses and lead to erosion of community character and harmony,” according to the city.

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