City extends pot moratorium another six months

Attorney believes Washington state to merge medical/recreational industries

by MATTHEW NASH

Sequim Gazette

 

The latest recreational marijuana sales moratorium renewal in the City of Sequim will be the last says City Attorney Craig Ritchie.

Appearing before the Sequim City Council on Monday night, Ritchie said he’s confident the state Legislature is going to pass bills to combine sales of medical and recreational marijuana and determine a cut for cities in sales tax.

“I do not expect to come back to you after this moratorium and ask to do another,” he said. “We’ll have enough information by the time this legislative session is over to make a final decision on how recreational and medical will (combine).”

Sequim City councilors voted 6-1, with Genaveve Starr opposed, to extend the moratorium another six months. It was first adopted in Feb. 24, 2014, and renewed in August 2014.

Previously, councilors expressed an interest in waiting for the Legislature to pass a bill to split sales tax with cities and to help pay for mandated law enforcement policies in regulating marijuana businesses.

For the latest moratorium, Councilor Laura Dubois said she wants to know what is in the final bill before acting while Councilor Ted Miller said the decision for a moratorium was “the least of evils at the present time.”

“Let’s hope the Legislature gets their act together,” he said.

But a few Sequim businessmen continue to testify to city councilors that the moratorium should be lifted now.

David Halpern, who won the city’s lottery for its lone recreational store from the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said he supports the city wanting a split of the excise tax but waiting for it continues to allow unregulated marijuana being sold.

He said Sequim allows four tobacco-exclusive stores to operate with several others selling it and alcohol exclusively, which he finds more dangerous than marijuana.

“No one has died from an overdose of marijuana, or at least none that I can find,” he said.

Halpern said he’s also partnered with a bank to accept credit cards to eliminate concerns of crime for being cash-only.

The move to act now, Halpern said, is so the city can receive tax dollars right away.

Both he and Tom Ash, owner of Tropic Grow LLC, Sequim’s first approved recreational marijuana producer, said they think recreational and medical marijuana will be combined, too.

The problem, Ash says, is “there’s huge lead time to implementing and getting in place operations.”

“You have a gentleman (Halpern) who has chosen to stay here, stand here and pay rent and be ready for that … In order to share in that money from beginning to end, you need to have an operational unit in town when it’s passed,” Ash said.

Halpern said the city wouldn’t want to be in a position to miss out on funds.

“Any person in business would rather choose to be ahead than behind,” he said.

If the moratorium were lifted, a city ordinance would not allow production or processing but retail would be allowed in some stretches along Washington Street, including at Halpern’s business Emanon Systems, Inc., at 755 W. Washington St., Suite C.

The two bills pending in the Senate pertaining to marijuana are SB 5052, establishing the cannabis patient protection act with a medical marijuana database while bridging recreational and medical marijuana and limiting the number of household medical plants, and SB 5417 redistributes taxes from marijuana sales to other jurisdictions and modifies the buffer for more possible locations.

For more about these bills, visit http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo.

 

 

 

Alana Linderoth contributed to this report.

 

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