New pot stores on hold to get ‘better understanding’ of effects on residents

By Jack Mayne

King County has suspended issuing of permits for retail pot stores in unincorporated areas of the county until officials get a better fix on the effects of such stores on area residents.

Several applications for new stores in the unincorporated areas of the North Highline White Center are on hold, says County Council President Joe McDermott, who represents the northern parts of Burien, SeaTac and Tukwila, along with the North Highline and White Center unincorporated areas.

McDermott says residents have told him that the impacts of marijuana sales have impacts on their lives.

“Individuals in rural communities have expressed concern that the security requirements (required in the initiative approved by voters) do not match the rural character of their neighborhood,” McDermott said in an email to the White Center and B-Town Blogs.

“Specific to North Highline, we’ve heard concerns about a clustering of retail businesses,” the County Councilmember said.


Joe McDermott

McDermott, who is also running for Congress this year to replace namesake, but unrelated Congressman Jim McDermott, said the Council has imposed a moratorium on new pot stores in unincorporated King County.

Too many were being clustered in unincorporated north King County, said resident Mark Johnston in an April 16 letter published in the White Center Blog. He said “13 retail marijuana stores have been licensed in unincorporated King County … with six in White Center/North Highline.”

McDermott said the county needed time to gauge the effect of pot stores on the local areas.

“The purpose of the moratorium approved by the County Council is to give us the opportunity to engage with communities to get a better understanding of how the marijuana industry is impacting them,” McDermott told the Blogs in a recent response. “This time will also allow us to engage everyone – neighbors, shop owners, growers, patients and others – and hear their ideas for possible solutions to the issues they’re facing. This feedback received will inform our policy development.”

But he said there was no thought of banning any new stores in the unincorporated areas.

“The voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana in our state,” McDermott said. “It is the county’s job to make a workable policy that balances sufficient access to legal marijuana and its impact on communities.”

He added that his “primary concern” is not about how much tax money is collected but is figuring out how to make marijuana available to residents in “a workable business climate and limited effect on communities.”

That could affect tax revenue, but it is not “my primary concern,” and noting that the projected county income from pot sales this fiscal year is less than $1 million.

McDermott added, “the permitting process will continue for businesses that submitted their applications prior to the moratorium being adopted.”

The moratorium does not affect incorporated cities, only unincorporated King County.

The City of Burien on Wednesday announced that Ekalo Teklehaimanot, of Living Well Enterprises LLC has applied to open a recreational marijuana retail Store at 17730 Ambaum Blvd. South (details here).

This would be Burien’s second retail pot shop (of two allowed), with the first currently being built at the old KC’s Family Restaurant located at 14325 First Ave South (read about that here). City officials say a decision on a business permit is still pending but expected soon, said city Communications Officer Katie Trefry.

Kent and Federal Way do not permit location of marijuana stores in their cities.


7 Responses to “New pot stores on hold to get ‘better understanding’ of effects on residents”
  1. Mark J says:

    Correction: My letter to the editor referenced 7 licensed retail stores in White Center/North Highline at the time. There have now been 8 licenses issued there.

    There have been 16 licenses total issued in unincorporated King County to date, 15 in 3 small communities–White Center/North Highline, Skyway/West Hill and Vashon Island–that are isolated from the rest of unincorporated King County and where the population is about 45,000 residents.

    There are more than 200,000 residents in the remainder of unincorporated King County.

    The policies that have sited retail marijuana stores in this fashion clearly do not meet the goal of making marijuana widely available to residents in unincorporated King County.

    • Jimmy says:

      Did you count the amount of travelers that come from sea-tac and other locations to buy and consume legal cannabis.

      • Mark J says:

        Jimmy, I have confidence that you can work out the simple math to figure out the right distribution of 16 stores between East and West King County. Hint: the population ratio is approximately 4 to 1 …

        • Jimmy says:

          Just about every block in the area has had at least one or more people who have bought sold or grown cannabis over the years. These cannabis supporters have not been the one’s driving these community’s in to property before I-502 so I don’t get how closing down shop for the illegal sellers and opening up legal shops could hurt the area. But see you keep saying this is a problem but you don’t mention the amount people these location’s are employing people that had a hard time finding a job that now are making a legal living. Some that might have been living off the state’s welfare system. You also seem to fail to mention any thing about the talks of king county spending some of money brought in from I-502 on fixing up some roads and filling pot holes and other repairs. I know white center needs a lot of fixing up in that department. I would guess skyway is most likely the same way.

          So see in my eyes it makes me wonder who you are really showing support for the thugs and illegal cannabis dealers that are now losing out on money. The cartels that use to sell some cannabis in the area.

          Are you really concern for the people that live in these community’s. Where cannabis has been around for years it’s just most people don’t show it or talk about it in public until now.

          Also do live in any of community’s that you speak of

          Would you be complaining if there where 16 tomato stands in these areas.

          • Jimmy says:

            You also fail to mention how these cannabis shops are renting out store fronts that have been run down and crime ridden spots. These business owners are updating buildings and turning old vacant spots in to a million dollar business. Like the Nimbin pot shop they made over 2 million dolors in just a year after opening. Now I highly doubt all that came from local resident’s alone. Now white center has a few these vacant spots around town this is probably why these shop are popping up with low rent’s and no limit on the amount of stores.

  2. Marco says:

    Mark J.

    Why would you determine the location of the stores simply by general population? You may be operating out of false assumption that those who smoke pot are distributed evenly throughout the city, which I am not a subscriber of. If you want to do correlation between high school drop out rates, crime rates, median income, I think you will find the perfect distribution. So the Rich pot heads of Redondo will have to slum it a bit , big deal!

    • Mark J says:

      Marco, the state has allocated its number of available licenses to each jurisdiction by population. That’s state policy. So if you are concerned about it, you should take the concern up with the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board …

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