John Rosman/OPB

Seattle officials say the city’s 24 marijuana delivery businesses are illegal and now outnumber its 19 licensed stores. To combat the problem, Seattle officials are pledging a crackdown, and a new legal delivery option.

Alex Cooley is the co-founder of the marijuana producer Solstice. His business has been one of the first to receive state and city licenses. But he said businesses like his can’t compete with illegal home delivery services.

“If I were able to conduct a criminal enterprise where law enforcement doesn’t care and my consumer does not care that it’s illegal and they’re breaking the law – what’s going to stop me?,” Cooley asked.

Solstice recently joined that competition, offering delivery for medical marijuana patients. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said he’s dismayed that Solstice would take that step as a state-licensed business. Holmes said there are good reasons to offer delivery, but only if it’s made legal first.

“If we can make ourselves safer on the highways, if we can help adults who need access who can’t otherwise get it, or people with medical authorizations, then it makes sense to do it within the legal regimen,” Holmes said.

Seattle is asking legislators to approve a pilot program in which five licensed retailers would be permitted to offer home deliveries.

Seth Dawson is with the Washington Association for Substance Abuse Prevention. At a recent legislative hearing, he said he’s concerned that deliveries make youth access easier.

“The deliverer may not have any idea that kids are present and yet someone of age has been tapped to secure the marijuana,” he said.

The sponsor, Democratic Washington state Rep. Christopher Hurst agreed and said he inserted a provision that any store delivering to someone under 21 will lose their place in the pilot.

“I wouldn’t have even been slightly interested in this bill if it didn’t come with a promise from Seattle that they were going to use this as part of the vehicle to shut down all the deliveries that are going on today,” Hurst said.

Hurst said he’s impressed with Seattle’s efforts to close down unlicensed medical marijuana stores. Seattle officials are promising a similar crackdown on illegal delivery businesses, using civil and criminal penalties.