King County Council votes to expand access to retail pot, limit production


At Monday’s meeting (July 25), the King County Council voted to approve legislation refining existing land use regulations concerning the growth, processing, and retail sale of marijuana in unincorporated areas.

Included in the adopted ordinance are measures to:

  • Remove all parcels under 10 acres and designated as Rural Area (RA) zones from use in the production (growth), processing, and retail sale of marijuana.
  • Exempt Vashon from restrictions on the use of RA zoned land for production and processing of marijuana.
  • Approve studies on potential retail and processing in specific locations.
  • Require the County Executive to identify 10 locations suitable for retail in Neighborhood Business (NB) zoned areas across unincorporated King County.

The ordinance was passed by the council 5-3, receiving support from Councilmembers Reagan Dunn, Kathy Lambert, Pete von Reichbauer, Claudia Balducci, and Dave Upthegrove.

Those voting in opposition were Councilmembers Joe McDermott, Rod Dembowski, and Larry Gossett, while Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles was excused.

“We adopted zoning for legal marijuana uses two and half years ago,” Dembowski said. “Residents have raised some heartfelt concerns about the location of some of these new businesses. I opposed today’s proposal to remove hundreds of thousands of acres of land and to impose new burdens on this budding industry because I believe a lot more work is necessary to fully understand the impacts of the various proposals to change the rules related to marijuana.”

The county is presently under a four-month moratorium on the acceptance of applications for or the establishment or location of marijuana producers, processors, and retailers in unincorporated areas. The approved ordinance will end the moratorium and goes into effect 10 days after receiving signature from Executive Dow Constantine.

The council adopted legislation to allow retail marijuana stores in geographic areas where none exist currently; to require separation between retailers in areas where multiple shops already exist and to limit growing, production and processing facilities in the rural areas to zones with lots of 10 acres or larger. Production and processing facilities continue to be allowed in previously-permitted zones such as agricultural and industrial areas. The action also called for a broader study of marijuana land uses in unincorporated King County, including further potential expansion of retail in neighborhood business zones.

“Today’s action improves access and equity in King County’s fledgling marijuana industry, by allowing retail stores in locations throughout King County in areas where it was previously prohibited,” Balducci – who voted for the measure – said. “This will provide better access for marijuana patients and customers, while taking pressure off the small unincorporated urban areas like Skyway and White Center that have seen a concentration of multiple stores. In addition, the Council added a requirement that marijuana retail stores locate at least 1,000 feet apart, which will further limit the increasing concentration of stores in small, lower-income areas of urban King County.”

A study by the University of Washington recently found that the amount of marijuana allowed to be grown by state-licensed producers in Washington is enough to satisfy both the medical and recreational marijuana markets. At the same time, the recent closure of medical dispensaries has affected patients’ ability to continue to obtain a supply of medical marijuana products. The Council’s vote today balances expanding access to retail marijuana with protection of existing neighborhoods who are bearing the impact of this new and growing market, while continuing to allow production and processing in large parts of King County, covering tens of thousands of acres in multiple land use zones.


Comments

2 Responses to “King County Council votes to expand access to retail pot, limit production”
  1. Mark J says:

    The jury is still out over whether the King County Council actually expanded access to retail pot yesterday. The county has not yet released the full text of this legislation to the public, and critical details of the plan to “[r]equire the County Executive to identify 10 locations suitable for retail in Neighborhood Business (NB) zoned areas across unincorporated King County” could just as easily turn out to be an appearance of willingness to expand access.

    For example, it appears the limited unincorporated area in Upthegroves district 5 is composed of Industrial and Agricultural zones and Balducci’s district 6 unincorporated area is Agricultural and Rural with no Neighborhood Business zoned property in either. If by “select[ing] locations suitable for retail [marijuana] in Neighborhood Business” zones means they will limit their selection to two parcels zoned NB in each council district, then it is well possible for no retailer to make those particular deals to actually create a business on those spots.

  2. Mark J says:

    Council members Joe McDermott (who represents White Center) and Larry Gossett (who represents Skyway) made the following public statements after Monday’s council vote:

    McDermott and Gossett: Council’s vote continues inequitable location of marijuana facilities

    July 25, 2016

    “The legislation will further concentrate retail marijuana stores in low income and working class neighborhoods, and, more often than not, minority neighborhoods.”

    Metropolitan King County Council Chair Joe McDermott, joined by Councilmember Larry Gossett, released this statement after the passage of legislation limiting the production, processing and retail of marijuana in the unincorporated areas of King County:

    “The legislation will further concentrate retail marijuana stores in low income and working class neighborhoods, and, more often than not, minority neighborhoods.

    “Reducing the land area where marijuana can be grown and processed coupled with no guaranteed expansion of retail stores will also result in limited access across our county.

    “This is particularly concerning for our residents who use medical marijuana to treat numerous ailments like seizures, arthritis and Crohn’s Disease.

    “For these reasons, we voted against the legislation.

    “Moving forward, the County must look for ways to ensure adequate access to recreational and medical marijuana. We must also address any unintended consequences this legislation may create.

    “King County residents voted for a workable, legal marijuana system. We must do the work to make this happen.”

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