Zoning planning begins for legal marijuana
July 30, 2013
By Peter Clark
Where should producing, processing and retail sales of marijuana take place in the city?
That’s the question the Policy Planning Commission began to answer during its July 25 public hearing. There, the zoning rules for future marijuana businesses were first unveiled.
With the passage of voter Initiative 502 last fall, recreational usage of marijuana was legalized. The initiative called for the state Liquor Control Board to regulate the new market and set rules for permits. According to the agenda bill discussed at the public hearing, local governments still have control over establishing business practices.
“The Liquor Control Board will review license applications for compliance with state laws and rules, but will not interfere with local government zoning powers,” it reads. “Consequently, Issaquah should be prepared to provide appropriate direction to prospective applicants regarding local zoning regulation of licensed marijuana facilities.”
City Associate Planner Jason Rogers presented the draft proposals for which zoned sections of the city would possibly welcome growers, manufacturers and marijuana stores.
“It’s not like you could walk into a grocery store and there would be a marijuana section,” Rogers said.
Retail stores would be allowed in urban core designated regions, as long as they are 1,000 feet from schools, recreation centers, public parks and public transit hubs.
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“This pretty much encompasses most of the commercial regions in Issaquah,” Rogers said. “Almost everything south of Interstate 90 is buffered out.”
Additionally, he said that producers and processors would only be allowed in intensive industrialized areas within the city.
Rogers pointed out that the state initiative mandated a 25 percent tax at every stage of economic sale. From the growers on up to those buying marijuana in stores, 25 percent would be added to the cost.
“It goes to help treatment for drug abuses and things like that,” he said.
One of the two public comments given in the hearing related to those taxes. Resident Bruce Ferguson said he worried that the state’s figures might continue to keep the sale of marijuana underground.
“I’m concerned that the state will price itself outside of the product and that outside resources will bring a more competitive product,” Ferguson said.
The commission raised some questions about the Planning Department’s stringency in accepting commercial applications, but on the whole both the commission and the public voiced little concern with the placement of future marijuana businesses.
Rogers explained that the zoning would be similar to liquor restrictions and he said the department took the responsibility seriously.
“We want to make very careful sure that anyone who’s coming in with a license for a permit knows what’s around them,” he said. “We want to make sure they’re aware of that. We want to make sure we’re aware of that.”