City Council extends marijuana moratorium in Redmond

The yellow sections on this map of Redmond indicate where marijuana processing businesses would be allowed. - Courtesy of City of Redmond
The yellow sections on this map of Redmond indicate where marijuana processing businesses would be allowed.
— image credit: Courtesy of City of Redmond

At Tuesday’s regular meeting, Redmond City Council voted 7-0 to extend the city’s current moratorium on all marijuana regulations for another six months.

The moratorium — which was set to expire March 2 — places a ban on all marijuana-related uses within the City of Redmond limits. With the extension, the ban will continue until Sept. 2.

Deborah Farris, a code enforcement officer for the City of Redmond, said the additional six months will give city staff more time to work on a proposal to take through the public process.

With the passing of Initiative 502 in 2012, which legalized the use of recreational marijuana, Farris said staff will be working on regulations for the production, processing and retail sales of marijuana. At this point, staff has come up with three possible options for council to consider.

The first option would be to permanently adopt the moratorium banning the production, processing and retailing of marijuana related products within Redmond.

The second option would include modifying the state-regulated 1,000-foot buffer zones between a marijuana-related business and schools, public parks, child care centers and other establishments where children gather in large groups. City staff’s modifications would include 1,000-foot buffers from all residential areas (including the residential areas themselves) and unlicensed child care centers. The latter would also be added to the list of prohibited areas. In addition, there would be a required 1,000-foot separation between marijuana-related uses.

“So we don’t have a concentration of marijuana-related uses in one area,” Farris said about the latter.

The third option city staff is looking at is to adopt either the first or second option as interim regulations to give them time to collect data on the effects of having marijuana-related businesses in the city and any effects on public safety.

City of Redmond Mayor John Marchione said they do not have specific projections at this time of how marijuana businesses could affect Redmond.

“We continue to work within the framework of what the State Liquor Control board has provided,” he said. “As information becomes available we will take that information into account.”

Although the passing of I-502 allows for recreational marijuana use, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson — at the request of Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) chair Sharon Foster — released the following formal opinion regarding local ordinances affecting new marijuana businesses in Washington:

“…Although Initiative 502 establishes a licensing and regulatory system for marijuana producers, processors, and retailers in Washington State, it includes no clear indication that it was intended to preempt local authority to regulate such businesses. We therefore conclude that I-502 left in place the normal powers of local governments to regulate within their jurisdictions.”

Farris said this means local governments still have the power to regulate marijuana use as they say fit.

“(But) that was just an opinion,” she stressed about Ferguson’s statement.

The WSLCB, the government agency overseeing the implementation of I-502, has limited the amount of marijuana retail stores to 334 statewide. Of this number, Redmond was assigned two.

This may be the case, but Farris said with the way the city is laid out and zoned, “there’s no retail (space) where they could go” that would meet the 1,000-foot buffer criteria. However, there are a few areas throughout the city where production or processing businesses could go, she said.

While the WSLCB has limited the amount of marijuana retail businesses, there was no limit placed on production or processing businesses.

WSLCB spokesperson Mikhail Carpenter said they received about 7,000 license applications for marijuana business — in all three categories, including 20 from Redmond. This is about 1,500 more applications than there are liquor-licensed grocery stores in the state and it is taking some time to go through all of them, he said.

“We’re in the process of processing all the applications,” Carpenter said, adding that the 14 licensing investigators tasked with the job are working after hours to get it done.

He said they expect to begin issuing licenses for production and processing businesses in March and businesses will probably begin opening beginning in June.

The retail businesses will come after that as there needs to be a product to sell first and that will depend on the market.

“Each producer is going to produce at their own rate,” Carpenter said.

He said another wrinkle in the plan when it comes to retail is the limited number of businesses allowed. If there are more approved licenses than allowed within a jurisdiction, Carpenter said, they will have a lottery drawing.

“Some cities will need it, some won’t,” he said.

Marijuana will be addressed in a Planning Commission  study session Wednesday and a Planning Commission public hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 26.

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