With the current moratorium on marijuana-related businesses due to expire on May 14, and with the state having already issued the first licenses to marijuana businesses, the Edmonds City Council on Tuesday began grappling with the questions of how and where these businesses might locate within the city limits.
Subsequent to last year’s approval by the voters of Initiative 502 legalizing recreational marijuana, the Washington State Liquor Control Board developed a comprehensive set of guidelines for how to implement the new law. Among other things, these provide for 1,000-foot buffer zones around schools, playfields, community centers, parks and similar facilities within which marijuana businesses are prohibited.
On Tuesday evening, Edmonds Planning Director Rob Chave presented the council (minus Strom Peterson, who was absent due to a family matter) with a map of Edmonds showing the location of these buffer zones. The map reveals that while most of Edmonds lies within buffer zones and is hence off limits to pot businesses, there are a few locations where they could legally locate. These include some stretches of Highway 99, a section of Edmonds Way just east of Westgate, and some small areas near Five Corners, Perrinville, and Firdale Village.
Chave explained that existing zoning regulations variously permit or restrict wholesale and retail commercial operations in these areas, He further pointed out that since marijuana producers and processors are defined as wholesale businesses under the law, they would be restricted to only areas zoned for wholesale business, primarily along Highway 99. Retail pot stores, on the other hand, would have a wider choice of potential locations. But according to the state retail license allocation formula, Edmonds will get only two retail stores.
Councilmember Kristiana Johnson suggested that as a way to control where these businesses locate, Edmonds might restrict all marijuana businesses, wholesale and retail, to only those areas zoned for wholesale businesses such as along Highway 99. Councilmember Fraley-Monillas pointed out that the two retail businesses allocated to Edmonds should not locate too close to one another.
The discussion then turned to the more immediate issue of establishing guidelines for how to proceed when notified by the state that a marijuana license has been issued to a business planning to locate in Edmonds. Chave told the council that so far, the City of Edmonds has received no official notification, but could at any time.
Accordingly, the council directed City Attorney Jeff Taraday to prepare an ordinance that would set the framework for how to proceed when notified by the state that a license to operate a marijuana-related business in Edmonds had been approved.
The Council plans to take this up at its next meeting on April 8.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel