City puts temporary hold on marijuana

Along with 73 other Washington cities, Sequim has put a moratorium on any land use decisions related to marijuana sales, production and processing.


City councilors for the most part agreed they wanted more time to make a decision and wait for any legislative decisions that could affect local jurisdictions.


“There are still so many questions,” Councilor Ted Miller said. “I don’t think we can make an informed decision today.”


City councilors voted 6-1 on Monday, Feb. 24, for the moratorium that could go up to six months. Genaveve Starr opposed the idea, saying the city should establish a zoning code for marijuana sales now.


“Our citizens have voted for this and we should proceed,” she said.


The moratorium stems from the November 2012 I-502 vote to allow recreational marijuana production, processing, retail sale, possession and use.


Sequim’s Planning Commission made a recommendation for the moratorium and to consider allowing retail marijuana sales in the general retail and commercial zones mostly at both ends of Washington Street.


Sequim is allowed one retail store under state law and population stipulations but it wouldn’t be allowed within 1,000 feet from day cares, schools, the library, parks, SARC and the Transit Center under the commission’s recommendation.  


Marijuana processing and production would not be allowed in city limits under the recommendation unless city councilors wanted to allow processing in the city’s manufacturing zone.  


Chris Hugo, director of community development, said if the state requires a city to allow a retail store, then the zones (on and near Washington Street) are where they’d allow it. However, there wouldn’t be a tax benefit for the city under any of the three options because marijuana is tax-exempt.


City Attorney Craig Ritchie said there are still active bills in the Legislature that could affect cities’ jurisdiction such as the possibility of sharing marijuana tax dollars.


Local jurisdictions continue to maintain final say on allowing marijuana sales, production and processing, according to Attorney General Robert Ferguson.  


Hugo said there haven’t been any legislative bills to come out of committee that evoke preemption, which would require the city to allow one or all of selling, processing and/or producing marijuana.


After the moratorium, city councilors could prohibit all three in the city.


Public hearing

City councilors decided to open the marijuana discussion to residents with a public hearing on March 10 at their regular meeting. Erik Erichsen and Miller opposed holding the hearing now because they wanted more time for the Legislature to make decisions.


Hugo said he anticipates the Washington Liquor Control Board issuing its licenses in the coming weeks.

If the moratorium weren’t enacted, and the liquor control board issued licenses, Hugo said the current city code could allow for selling, producing and processing marijuana.


Production could go in single family and mixed use zones, processing could occur in a range of zones, primarily commercial zone with a conditional use permit while retail sales could be treated similarly to liquor stores.


Councilor Ken Hays said he doesn’t think the city should prohibit retail sales but be careful where they go.


“It seems to be the best way to control it for now especially with the uncertainty of when state will begin issuing licenses,” he said.


Mayor Candace Pratt said she thinks there still are too many unknowns.


“The school district is contemplating building a new elementary school and they don’t know where it’ll go but it could be the east side,” she said. “Plus there are matters of public safety and whether or not the Legislature is going to let us have any money. It’s not worth it to proceed right now.”  


City councilors have up to six months to make a decision on the marijuana land uses and they could renew the moratorium for another six months if needed. The City of Sunnyside renewed its moratorium in September 2013.


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