County commissioners face recreational cannabis controls decision

Clallam County's recreational marijuana temporary ordinance expires Sept. 27

Public hearings: 3 Crabs Road realignment and marijuana ordinance

When: 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8

Where: Clallam County Courthouse, Room 160, 223 E. Fourth St.



Sequim Gazette


Nearly three years after Washington voters passed Initiative-502, legalizing recreational marijuana and two six-month extensions to interim controls, Clallam County commissioners are anticipated to act on a final ordinance outlining local regulations for recreational marijuana.

A public hearing is set for Tuesday, Sept. 8, to allow for any community input or insight on the ordinance recommended by the Clallam County Planning Commission as well as officials with the county’s Department of Community Development.

“I support the commission’s recommendation,” County Commissioner Bill Peach said during Aug. 17 work session where DCD officials first presented the revised draft ordinance to the board of county commissioners.

“It’s a good piece of work,” he said.

If approved by the county commissioners, the ordinance creating a chapter in the Clallam County Code titled, “Recreational Marijuana” would become effective 10 days after adoption.

Kevin LoPiccolo, DCD planning manager, recommended the board take action on the ordinance no later than Sept. 17 to avoid a gap in regulations relating to recreational marijuana, as the current, but temporary ordinance expires Sept. 27.

For more than a year, DCD personnel have been working with the planning commission, a nine-member, volunteer advisory panel aimed at making recommendations to the commissioners. The recommended ordinance transpired following 14 work sessions.

In June the county commissioners discussed putting the draft ordinance to the voters in November, but since then the deadline to place a measure on the General Election ballot has come and gone. However, the notion to seek guidance from the public via voter feedback hasn’t quite dissolved.

“We’ve recently gotten some information about a Supreme Court case that prohibits referenda on legal obligations that a legislative body must do, like the comprehensive plan, shoreline master plan or critical area ordinance — things that state law calls for us to do affirmatively,” County Commissioner Jim McEntire said. “This might or might not be one those things.”

If it’s prohibited, McEntire noted an advisory vote by the public still may be a good option.

“I am still inclined as a personal preference to have anything that involves fundamental rights, such as property rights, be ultimately addressed by the people,” he said.

Regardless if the ordinance is brought back to the voters or the legality of doing so, the commissioners were unanimous in their decision to hold a public hearing for possible adoption.

“That will be a question for the future, so I think the immediate issue is to get this noted up for a public hearing,” McEntire said.

The recommendation provides the framework for state licensed recreational marijuana growers, processors and retailers seeking to pursue business in Clallam County. Although an interim ordinance has provided the guidelines since early October 2014, the recommended ordinance is intended to set permanent controls.

Unlike the interim Ordinance 900, the proposed final controls allow for the production and processing of recreational marijuana in Agricultural Retention zoned property as a conditional use only. The controls prohibit all types of recreational marijuana activity in residential areas and establishes minimum setbacks and parcel size depending on the scale of business or grow and the desired location.

For example, an I-502 “Type 1” processor, meaning they’re limited to drying, curing, trimming and packaging marijuana can locate their business within property zoned Commercial Forest, but on a minimum parcel size of 80 acres with no more than five acres devoted to marijuana operations and a 200-foot minimum property line setback.

In areas such as Rural Commercial or Industrial, however, the restrictions are much less.

The state Legislature passed Senate Bill 5052 in April, merging recreational and medical cannabis, but the proposed ordinance doesn’t include any rules relating the medical marijuana.

“The director of Community Development determined the Planning Commission was too far into the process of reviewing an ordinance that addressed only recreational marijuana,” according to the proposed ordinance. “Medical marijuana regulations, if any, will be addressed the future.”