Marijuana moratorium receives four-month extension
February 20, 2014
By Peter Clark
NEW – 6 a.m. Feb. 20, 2014
Recreational marijuana businesses will have to wait until at least July to legally operate in Issaquah.
During its Feb. 18 regular meeting, the City Council voted unanimously to extend the current six-month moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses by four months. Instead of expiring March 3, the prohibition will last until July 7.
“The original agenda bill had the extension for two months and after meeting with city staff, we asked for it be extended to four,” said Councilman Tola Marts, also the chairman of the Land and Shore Committee, which recommended the extension to the full council. “Some municipalities are looking to extend the clock as much as they can. I don’t think that’s the purpose here.”
The council gave a two-fold reason for the extension. First, the current state legislative session has a number of bills on the floor, which could affect how Issaquah determines regulations for the businesses. Before deciding on how to regulate recreational marijuana businesses, should it choose to, the council wanted to see any new laws enacted by the Legislature.
Second, the council expressed an ardent wish to receive more public opinion to better serve city residents.
The council held a public hearing to hear citizen opinions on extending the moratorium. Two residents spoke, both opposed to the city harboring recreational marijuana businesses.
Resident Robert Milligan, husband to new Councilwoman Nina Milligan, asked the council two questions.
“Will the decision you make aim toward the betterment or the detriment of the city?” he asked. “Is the not the laboring in your role ultimately towards the betterment? I hope that profit is not a motivator.”
The only other speaker also worried about tax revenue from marijuana businesses.
“My hope is that Issaquah realizes we don’t need the revenue from recreational marijuana,” resident Steve Carrera said. “I guess I don’t see the benefit of why we need the revenue. I would urge the council to not just institute a temporary moratorium but a permanent moratorium. My hope is that Issaquah will do the right thing.”
Council President Paul Winterstein continued a plea to the citizens of Issaquah to get involved in the discussion and help the council make decisions in the community’s best interest.
“I have not made up my mind,” he said. “I’m inviting the entire community to join this conversation here.”
He said recent outcry against the council for not involving the community enough in a plastic bag ban discussion made him intent on giving as much time for citizens to voice opinions.
“Though we tried very hard to engage the public with the bag ban, we’re redoubling our efforts here,” Winterstein said. “No one is going to be able to accuse this council of not giving this issue its due.”
Councilman Josh Schaer had a firmer opinion about the issue and welcomed the moratorium extension.
“I believe that a ban should be reserved for the worst of the worst,” he said. “I don’t think a ban is a good way to go. I support the moratorium, and we can help shape what this might look like for our community.”