Public Pot Hearings Show City-State Tensions

By Amy Radil

Washington state expects to adopt final rules for the structure governing legalized marijuana under I-502 by next week. So officials with the state’s Liquor Control Board are touring the state to get feedback before the rules take effect. The new law could create tension between the state and its anti-pot cities.

Everett is the anti-Seattle when it comes to medical marijuana regulations. Last December, just as recreational pot became legal, the city of Everett passed an ordinance declaring marijuana dispensaries a public nuisance. Sean Green owns two medical marijuana dispensaries elsewhere in Washington but says he doesn’t know of any operating in Everett. He had opened a location there but was forced to leave when the city changed its policies.

Green: “There were some public complaints about marijuana in the city and officials took that and just closed it off completely.”

Now Everett is looking at zoning requirements for recreational marijuana, which Green says are overly restrictive as well.

Green: “Effectively Everett’s been since the beginning trying to put a road block in front of marijuana into the city period.”

Some Everett residents aren’t thrilled about the idea of new marijuana stores. Michelle Rastovich told state regulators she wants them to tighten rules around recreational marijuana. Rastovich works in substance abuse prevention and says she’s concerned that marijuana retailers could end up selling infused candy products to kids.

Rastovich: “These public discussions of I-502 are already sending the message to young people that using marijuana is okay. What we do in this first year will set the tone for our community norms for years to come.”

As the state’s Liquor Control Board prepares to issue licenses for new marijuana retail stores, cities are trying to make sure they retain the power to zone and control those stores. Grant Weed is NOT a marijuana advocate, despite his name. He is a lawyer representing many cities in Snohomish County. He says several of them have imposed moratoriums while they study whether to allow medical marijuana.

Weed: “The general principle behind the moratorium is not necessarily to say, no we’re never going to allow your type of operation in our city but moreover to have some time to carefully study what they want to implement.”

Weed asked state regulators to make clear that marijuana licensees must follow local rules as well.

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