The City of Sequim’s moratorium on recreational marijuana remains in effect one month after city councilors last upheld it.
That won’t sway, according to some councilors, until the Legislature meets again next year and makes revenue and political changes for cities like Sequim.
Sequim City councilors voted 6-1 Monday, April 28, in favor and Councilor Genaveve Starr opposed to upholding the six-month moratorium through August. Their decision comes more than two months after first approving the moratorium on Feb. 24.
City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the vote fulfilled a guideline for the moratorium to be reviewed officially by city councilors.
When the moratorium is up, councilors can vote to either renew the moratorium for up to another six months or allow recreational marijuana sales in the city.
Due to its population, the City of Sequim is allowed one recreational marijuana store. A lottery was held last week for statewide retailers and the announcement on the first businesses to be reviewed for licenses is expected Friday.
Councilor Laura Dubois voted for the city’s moratorium, she said, because the state keeps tax revenues from cities that could be used for local police to handle criminal activity at retail marijuana sites.
“It’s a cash business and a very valuable inventory,” she said. “If the state is going to keep our tax revenue, then I’m going to continue to vote for the moratorium based on the state’s decision to keep the tax revenue.”
Councilor Ted Miller agreed with Dubois but said merging recreational and medical marijuana sales should be a priority.
“The state hasn’t got its act together,” Miller said. “Until we have a definitive merger with recreational and medical marijuana and we have clear guidelines to proceed it would be premature for us to go ahead.
“People have waited for marijuana legalization this long. They can wait a few more months longer so we can do it right.”
Starr, who has voted against the moratorium before, told the Gazette she wants to go forward with retail sales because the county and state approved it.
“Everything I’ve been reading online with the Colorado experience has not been negative,” she said.
“I’m thinking we may be really worried about things that may not happen.”
Policy in place
If councilors do revoke the moratorium, which they can do anytime, they have some policy in place. On March 24, they voted to allow retail marijuana sales in the city’s general retail and commercial zones, which fall mostly at both ends of Washington Street due to restrictions from downtown Sequim and areas like schools and parks.
Marijuana processing and producing would not be allowed in the city though.
Ritchie said of Washington’s 281 cities, 73 have moratoriums on marijuana decisions.
“They are mostly waiting until the Legislature meets (starting January 2015),” he said.
Ritchie said he and many others expected the Legislature to merge recreational and medical marijuana sales before it ended March 13.
“They’ll come up with some other method,” he said. “I see this as urgent. Medical marijuana users need to have a source. Potentially a lot of tax money at stake. I think they will deal with it.”
A few Sequim residents spoke in person or via letter Monday in support of lifting the moratorium.
Jan Gonzales, a city resident, wrote by letter stating that the legislation for merging medical and recreational marijuana was met with stiff opposition. Gonzales added that there’s no evidence to support an increase in crime either.
“Patients are forced to incur additional expenses as a result of this irrational and unjust moratorium,” Gonzales said. “The city will find its portion of the tax revenue from recreational marijuana when the Legislature reconvenes. Medicine is not where the city should seek its tax revenue.”
Dave Halpern, a Gardiner resident, said keeping one retail store out of Sequim will not change any immediate police response because recreational marijuana stores will be outside of the city, too.
“People will buy out of the city and bring it back into the city,” he said. “I implore you to follow the will of the county.”
Starr said she doesn’t anticipate the city council lifting the moratorium until next year.