Lack of state rules leads city to consider marijuana moratorium
August 20, 2013
By Peter Clark
Issaquah’s administration is considering a moratorium on recreational marijuana licenses until the state figures some things out.
During the City Council’s regular meeting Aug. 5, an agenda bill was passed that outlined temporary moratorium on permitting production, processing and retail sales in the city. The Council’s Land & Shore Committee recommended it during its Aug. 13 meeting, which will initiate a public hearing on the subject during the Sept. 3 council meeting.
As the state’s Liquor Control Board continues to work on establishing permitting rules, the city along with many others including Olympia and Sammamish, has decided to wait until some time passes before it allows recreational facilities in its borders.
“No one really knows how this market is going to shake out,” Issaquah Associate Planner Jason Rogers said. “A lot of it is just uncertainty. We’re trying to let this play out and seek a six-month moratorium. State law definitely allows us to do this.”
The Land & Shore Committee agreed with the administration. Chairwoman Stacy Goodman said that established rules at the state level is the main thing holding the city back from formalizing its own standards.
“We recommended the moratorium because the state hasn’t adopted its own regulations yet,” Goodman said, adding that city officials cannot know yet what concerns to address without state guidelines. “It just seems pretty premature to talk about what issues may arise.”
Rogers said the state allows municipalities to seek six-month moratoriums, which can be extended. However, lengthening a moratorium requires a greater focus on developing a comprehensive plan to adopt state regulations.
“Based on my impression, the vast number of cities are going to seek a moratorium,” Rogers said. “You can extend it. It just becomes more and more untenable as you do.”
He named uncertainty as the biggest factor in the city’s decision. As the liquor board continues to poll the public and establish firm regulations, city officials are concerned about the number of questions still to answer.
“The big unknown in all of this is the Liquor Control Board has an allocation number,” he said referring to the amount of allowable producers and retailers in a location. “They don’t specify what those geographical areas are.”
Under the restrictions of the moratorium, once the state sets its rules, applicants could receive state permitting. However, business practices in Issaquah would be subject to code enforcement.
“We wouldn’t issue permits, but it doesn’t mean they couldn’t get a state license,” Rogers said. “If they did set up shop, they would be in violation of our zoning.”
He stressed that the city had no intention of stretching out a moratorium unnecessarily. Rogers encouraged the public to join in the conversation during the Sept. 3 council meeting. There, the council will decide whether to establish the moratorium.
If you go
Public hearing on marijuana moratorium
- 7 p.m. Sept. 3
- Council Chambers
- 135 E. Sunset Way