Seattle Tries to Crack Down on Pot Delivery

by | December 11, 2014

By Evan Bush

The city of Seattle plans to shut down marijuana-delivery services, which became popular after the state legalized recreational marijuana.

David Mendoza, a policy adviser to Mayor Ed Murray, said in a City Council briefing Wednesday that the mayor's office will work with Seattle police on operations against these businesses. Delivery services _ which are illegal _ will get a single chance to stop operating, Mendoza told the council.

"One strike and we seize your product and tell you to close," said Mendoza.

After a second strike, the Seattle Police Department will make arrests, he said.

Jason Kelly, a spokesman for Murray, said the administration believes shutting down delivery services will help "ensure minors don't have access to marijuana and to ensure medical-marijuana operations are serving patients that have appropriate medical authorizations."

Mendoza said in the briefing that between seven and 10 delivery businesses advertise in The Stranger newspaper each week. In the most recent issue, some businesses advertised with phrases such as "NO CARD REQUIRED," "Tourists Welcome" and "Out of State Visitors Welcomed."

"They're continuing to grow," Mendoza told council members. "There is no provision for them. We feel we should close them down."

John Schochet, deputy chief of staff at the city attorney's office, said the police department has the authority for this kind of operation. "The activity of selling marijuana to someone else without a . . . license or some kind of collective garden or designated provider status is illegal and SPD can enforce that," said Schochet. He said those delivering medical marijuana could still be arrested and charged, though they might have a stronger potential defense because of that law's gray areas.

Schochet said charges of felony distribution would be handled by the King County prosecutor's office.

Dan Donohoe, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said it hadn't received any cases against marijuana-delivery services.

Oscar Velasco-Schmitz said he was pleased the mayor's office was taking action against delivery operations. Velasco-Schmitz owns a Seattle-area recreational-pot store and sits on the board of a medical dispensary. He said delivery undercuts both types of business.

"They don't have the overhead of a storefront," said Velasco-Schmitz. "They don't have a staff. I'm assuming there's no taxation of these businesses. There's no oversight," he said.

A representative who answered the phone Wednesday evening at House of Dank Delivery said he would stop advertising his business but wouldn't stop delivery. He declined to give his name because of the impending city crackdown.

"No, I wouldn't stop my business," he said. "I have a pretty regular clientele. I probably only pick up 10 to 12 new customers a week," he said.

He said House of Dank Delivery requires customers to be older than 21. He said he thought the move would backfire: "Pioneer Square is going to be filled with a bunch of dime bags."

At the briefing, Mendoza also told the council the mayor's office plans to identify and shut down medical-marijuana businesses that are operating without business licenses.

Mendoza said the mayor's office plans to propose legislation to overhaul how Seattle regulates medical marijuana in January that creates standards for testing, packaging and advertising. It would allow the city to inspect businesses, levy fines and shut down businesses that don't comply.

(c)2014 The Seattle Times