After July 1, 2016, unlicensed marijuana sales operations in unincorporated Pierce County will be in violation of the law. Now that a budget amendment authored by Councilmember Doug Richardson has been adopted, those caught breaking the law after the cutoff deadline can be arrested and prosecuted.
“The county had been waiting for clarification from the state in regards to marijuana law, so even though we have all these illegal retail stores, the county hasn’t been doing anything about them,” said Richardson, who represents the county’s 6th Council District. “Now that state law is clear and a date has been set, anyone caught selling marijuana without a license in unincorporated Pierce County after July 1 of next year will be considered a drug dealer.”
There are over 80 unlicensed marijuana sales businesses currently operating illegally in unincorporated Pierce County. Those establishments received a letter in late July announcing their requirement to comply with state and county law prior to July 1, 2016, or face the consequences.
Richardson says his amendment has been under development behind the scenes for some time. It was adopted 4-3 at the Pierce County Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10. The measure will establish a marijuana enforcement fund in the county budget to provide the Sheriff’s Department and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office the resources needed to close the illegal dispensaries and prosecute violators.
“Right now, several of these stores are operating very near schools and other inappropriate locations,” Richardson added. “This measure will help make those neighborhoods safer.”
The council is expected to finalize the budget for 2016 on Monday, Nov. 16.