King County Executive Dow Constantine responds to letter writer about pot stores

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter by King County Executive Dow Constantine, written in response to a Letter to the Editor from Mark Johnston posted on The White Center Blog on July 26, 2016 (read the original here):

Dear Mr. Johnston,

I write in response to your open letter on the White Center Blog regarding the equity and social justice impacts of the County’s marijuana zoning. I share your concern that the benefits and impacts of marijuana legalization be equitably distributed across King County.

Immediately after passage of Initiative 502, I convened an interbranch team to analyze the many policy issues surrounding legalization. This team included staff from Executive agencies, Public Health, and the County Council, along with representatives from the Sheriff’s and Prosecuting Attorney’s offices. One of the team’s first tasks was to establish shared principles to guide its work. These included minimizing disproportionate siting and neighborhood impacts, and avoiding siting of multiple businesses in close proximity to one another.

The work of this team informed the development of my initial proposed marijuana zoning, which allowed retail stores in the County’s few remaining commercial zones. These zones are located in White Center and Skyway, but also in Fairwood and Briarwood, and in unincorporated areas near Duvall and Federal Way.

When it became clear that the private market was focusing development of retail shops in White Center and Skyway, I proposed an ordinance to address concentration impacts by requiring a 1000 foot buffer between stores. The County Council adopted the new 1000 foot buffer (along with grandfathering, which I did not propose), and called for further study to inform the County’s land use approach to legalization.

Efforts to disperse marijuana uses will not be successful without help from our regional partners. Many cities have enacted bans and moratoria on marijuana uses, placing more pressure for retail shops to locate in jurisdictions that allow them. I have raised this issue with the leadership of the Sound Cities Association, and will continue to encourage all cities to do their part to lay the foundation for fair and appropriate implementation of the state marijuana law.

There is no issue of greater importance to me and my administration than equity and social justice for all residents of King County. I appreciate your thoughts and I invite you and the Skyway and White Center communities to work with us as we continue to refine our approach to marijuana legalization.

Dow Constantine
King County Executive


13 Responses to “King County Executive Dow Constantine responds to letter writer about pot stores”
  1. John Watson says:

    Executive Constantine:
    There is a huge low-income apartment project being built on the corner of South 112th Street and 1st Ave South, literally 2 blocks from a cluster of 3 recreational pot shops all within a block or two of each other.

    This is a prime example of King County’s penchant for pushing “inconvenient” people (low-income) and “inconvenient” businesses (pot shops) to less-empowered, literally marginalized neighborhoods like White Center, Top Hat, and Skyway.

    There could be no better argument for reversing the grandfathering clause. Please give our new neighbors a fighting chance by thinning out the “pot ghetto” on their doorstep.

    We urge you to give this your highest attention.

    • Jimmy says:

      Are the people that are going to live in that housing project also aware of the amount of liquor establishment’s there are in that area and have been for years. Also the amount of illegal pot dealers these legal pot shops are putting out of business. Like the group of people that like to sit on concrete blocks and sale drugs to whom ever at the very same location as your speaking about. Now the police can put more time on fighting real crime in these area’s. Instead of taking someone to jail for a small amount of pot. Spending the time filling out paperwork and going to court all on the tax payers dime. Now we have pot shops that check I’d and are making money for the state and county to use towards helping these communities.

      • John Watson says:

        Jimmy, you make good points in favor of licensed recreational MJ shops, versus illegal sales by dealers. I don’t disagree. And I also agree with your analogy to a high concentration of liquor stores, especially in areas that have limited retail diversity. Diversity (of all kinds!) makes for stronger and more interesting neighborhoods.

        At the particular corner I referenced, there is not a high concentration of liquor stores, which is why I didn’t bring it up in my original post.

        Thanks for joining in the conversation. Our neighborhoods can only get better when more people care enough to disagree! 🙂

        • Jimmy says:

          Thank you John but I did not just mean just liquor stores sorry I meant things like beer and wine even malt liqueur. There is a gas station on the corner of that property that sales these items and I believe there is another convenience store just past 112th on the north bound lane side of 1st ave s after the car lot that also sales these items. Then up the street about another block there is a bar and a half block up from there is the old top hat convenience store that also sales these types of items. That 4 location that sale some type of booze in just 2 blocks most have been there for years accept the the one just past 112th it open I think in just the past year or so.

          • Jimmy says:

            Then it’s not only the booze but the unhealthy foods these locations sell. That is actually more dangerous for you to consume than the cannabis sold in these pot shops. Do to amount of byproducts and chemical filled foods. The amount of sugars and fats in most of food items sold at these location. Then also there is the mark up in price of some items at these gas stations and other mini mart type locations. That can really hurt some one pocket book if there on a budget.

            Then if you go to a place like nimbin pot shop you can get a gram of cannabis for as cheap as $6 you know it was grown correctly and safely but if you where to buy a gram and a half on the street it’s $20 and you have no clue how it was grown .

  2. Beth Hughes says:

    Mr. Constantine,

    Along with the concentration in my area of pot shops, there is an increase in bad driving behavior of those coming and going from both shops, but mostly it’s the customers at “Have a Heart” who run red lights, dash across from their lot to gas station lot (or visa-versa) as they cut through to avoid the light at S129th.

    HOW no one has been seriously hurt or even killed is beyond me, as I myself have been nearly hit so many times I’m guessing my guardian angels must be asking for overtime!

    I’d like to request that there is more emphasis on patrols in the area, or at least periodic spot checks so officers see what I do on a constant basis! We already have had problems with people breaking various traffic laws, but it has greatly increased since not one, but two shops, 200-300 feet from each other opened.

    It’s bad enough the hell we are living with as the concrete recycle business is STILL open and has a seemingly endless amount of concrete to process out, but having 2 pot shops, with customers who can’t be bothered with something silly like traffic laws has become unbearable!

    Oh and I agree with everything said by both Mr. Johnston and Mr. Watson!

    • Jimmy says:

      I have noticed that the nimbin pot shop has a tuff parking lot to get in and out of but I have not seen or heard of any accidents. Most people that choose to drive high know how to manage there driving driving while high on pot is not like driving drunk. But most people that don’t consume pot or don’t understand moderation also tend to not understand the differences between the two.

  3. Paula Ross says:

    I have met Mr Constantine in person, and he seems like man who sincerely cares for all the people he represents, however, he doesn’t have to live with the results of several pot shops all concentrated within a small area. I do. I have been to public meetings where I got the distinct impression that our neighborhood is being punished for not voting to be annexed into Renton. There were a lot of issues that I never got a straight answer to when I was asking about the pros and cons of the annexation issue. I love the views from this hill, the mix of people from every corner of the earth, and the small-town feeling of being able to know the Fire Chief, our “Beat Cops” when we see familiar faces watching over the safety of residents at community activities like the Outdoor Cinema, and the hard working people who show up at community meetings WITHOUT PAY to do the things that make a neighborhood livable. What I don’t like is the seeming attitude of some of the county “mothers and fathers” that live in more financially advantaged areas that “I have mine, screw you” towards unencorp. areas of the county. We vote, we pay taxes, we deserve not only to be heard, but respected as equal parts of King County.
    I am not seeing this.

  4. Justin Cline says:

    Dear Dow,
    Please ignore this guy. He has been been clogging up all the local FB groups and neighborhood blogs with this crap for months now. He seems to be sure that all this weed is bad and your racist (I’m not even sure how far down he had to go to pull that one out of his butt) policies of allowing legal businesses in our neighborhood is a problem. He has not been able to site a single problem they have caused, but he is sure your a racist.
    In all seriousness, I own Full Tilt Ice Cream in White Center. There has been a flury of new businesses opening. There are 11 places to get tacos, 5 to get fried chicken, 28 to get alcohol, and even 7 places to get ice cream. Mark does not seem to have an issue with these places. No, he has an issue with the 6 places in the area that you can legally purchase weed. Not that he will even say why. Those 6 marijuana shops contribute to our community just as much as any of the other businesses. I would wager that those 6 businesses are actually doing a lot for the 11 taco shops, and I know they are doin a lot for my ice cream shop.


    • Mark J says:

      I get it, Justin, you don’t like me based on my advocacy for fair treatment in White Center and Skyway by our local government.

      You say that I “seem to be sure that all this weed is bad” when I’ve never said any such thing. You seem to believe that anyone who is in favor of moderation in terms of marijuana use or availability is some kind of backwards-thinking nazi. The truth is that retail marijuana stores are a regulated industry. There are very real concerns with the proliferation of marijuana stores, and White Center has been ground zero anywhere in the State of Washington for this proliferation. Our county government, as well as the state regulator deserve all the criticism they are getting about how they have regulated the siting of retail marijuana stores.

      You compound your ridiculous claims with more ridiculous claptrap when you say that someone cannot complain about the regulated siting of businesses without complaining about every other type of business too.

      When you cite 6 places that are open to buy marijuana in the White Center area, you conveniently ignore the fact there are 5 more with a license that are in the process of opening. Maybe more ice cream customers? At what cost to the health of the community?

      My advocacy on this issue is for places like White Center and Skyway to fall in closer to the norms of cities like Seattle. Seattle is often seen as the mecca for legal marijuana sales in the state, and White Center and Skyway would have 3 stores between them if they followed Seattle’s norm.

      If you read Executive Constantine’s letter carefully, you will see that he is not in favor of too many of these businesses to be sited closely together nor is he in favor of too many stores in any one small community. That’s as it should be for any regulated industry.

      • Ike says:

        There are 2 pot stores in White Center. Not 5, not 6. 2. What’s the big deal?

        • Question Mark says:

          Re: there are two pot stores in White Center, it takes blinders on to pretend that the White Center business district is the everything and all of concern to the North Highline area. But to put these concerns in terms you might understand, let’s just say White Center/Top Hat.

          And yes, there are now 5 stores open in White Center/Top Hat, and two more trying to open, both with active King County marijuana business licenses.

          • Captain obvious says:

            Yes and there only about 100 places to by smokes and beer. Then there places that sell things like synthetic weed that can be deadly. Then there places that sale N2o whip its that can be addictive and little glass tubes that some people choose to use for smoking meth and crack. Then you have some pawn shops that have mistakenly taken in stolen items and resold them from time to time. All stuff a lot worse than 5 or even 100 pot shops in white center or skyway.

            So why not have king county set a moratorium up on these business and effect they have on the community.

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