City Council approves recreational marijuana retail regulations
June 10, 2014
By Peter Clark
Retail marijuana will come to Issaquah.
After months of discussion and a moratorium installed in September, Issaquah will allow recreational marijuana business practices. The City Council voted on the administration’s proposed regulations during the June 2 meeting and agreed 5-2 to the rules that build on the established state restrictions.
“The proposed regulations would allow marijuana retail in all of Issaquah’s commercial areas — everywhere but the downtown zone,” City Associate Planner Jason Rogers said. “For the producers and processors, the intent was to limit them to our intensive commercial zone only.”
The stipulations abide by the state’s restrictions for recreational marijuana businesses to maintain a 1,000 buffer away from all schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care centers, public parks or libraries. Additionally, Issaquah’s new regulations will also mandate that retail stores must not locate within 1,000 feet of producers or processors.
The approved regulations for recreational marijuana also include a ban on home businesses, extend security footage beyond what the state requires and raise business permits up to a level two administrative site development permit, which would necessitate informing all property owners within 300 feet of the permit application.
Issaquah had a number of options available in considering how to treat the issue. The city could have chosen to operate under the established state rules or could have enacted an outright ban on recreational marijuana business practices. As the council deliberated the merits of the proposed regulations, some members argued for the latter.
“In talking about recreational marijuana, I often heard, ‘Oh, come on, it is just like legalizing alcohol,’” Councilwoman Nina Milligan said. “But in one very important way, it is not. The fact that marijuana is illegal on the federal level just rubs me the wrong way. It’s very hard for me to go against this basic national tenet.”
She had previously spoken for banning recreational marijuana businesses in Issaquah and did so again in the June 2 meeting. She compared it to the “air of permissiveness about alcohol in our culture” and how approving recreational marijuana businesses on the council level would affect underage use.
“I can well imagine how allowing the production and sale of recreational marijuana would increase the consumption amongst our youth in just this way,” Milligan said.
She was joined in opposition to the proposed regulations by Councilwoman Eileen Barber, who listed a number of findings about marijuana use from the American Medial Association.
The rest of the council overshadowed the reluctance to pass the regulations.
“I believe this bill is perfectly legal and it’s also appropriate,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said. “I believe that a ban should be reserved for the worst of the worst, which is why I didn’t vote for the ban on plastic bags in our community.”
He gave a legal perspective that did not condone the actions, but merely delivered policy parallel to the voters who approved Initiative 502.
“Make no mistake, bad choices with marijuana can lead to abuse,” Schaer said. “We’re not here to provide treatment or solve the controlled-substance problems that plague our community. We’re here to implement policy that is consistent with the law of Washington.”
The majority of the council shared his views.
“We could ban the sale of marijuana in Issaquah, but it won’t change the legality of marijuana in Issaquah and I don’t think it would affect the prevalence of marijuana in Issaquah,” Council President Paul Winterstein said.
Barber and Milligan voted against approving the regulations.
Without another extension, the moratorium on recreational marijuana business practices will expire July 7.
The state has begun to distribute licenses for businesses, but has not yet given one to any of the 10 applicants for Issaquah’s single allowed retail store or the two who applied to produce marijuana in the city limits.