Pubdate: Thu, 07 May 2015
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2015 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Amy Nile


Marijuana Businesses Already Operating and Those in the Permitting 
Process Before the Vote Are Mostly Unaffected.

EVERETT - The Snohomish County Council on Wednesday voted 4-1 to ban 
new pot businesses in certain rural areas.

The decision comes after nine months of public testimony from 
green-clad marijuana business supporters and neighbors opposed to 
their operations moving in nearby. The council essentially made 
permanent a moratorium that was first enacted last fall in response 
to resident concerns.

The ban applies to new recreational marijuana businesses in so-called 
R-5 zones, rural areas where the county typically allows only one 
house per five acres.

The council action also prohibits new medical marijuana dispensaries 
or growing collectives along a one-mile stretch of Highway 9 in the 
Clearview area.

Under the new rules, recreational marijuana businesses will continue 
to be allowed in other agricultural areas and in business and 
industrial zones of unincorporated Snohomish County. There are about 
64,000 acres where marijuana enterprises are still permitted. In the 
agricultural areas, marijuana businesses will be required to follow 
the same rules as other agricultural businesses.

In related but separate action, the council also banned pot 
operations on the Tulalip Reservation at the request of tribal leaders.

Marijuana businesses that were already operating in the county's 
rural areas, or were in the permitting process under state and county 
rules before the moratorium, will be mostly unaffected by rules.

County officials do not know how many businesses fall into that 
category and will be allowed to proceed. But Jamie Curtismith, an 
advocate for local growers, said about a dozen businesses are 
unaffected by the new law.

Six are already legally established in the R-5 zones under state and 
county rules, she said. The other six are in the permitting process 
and will likely be allowed to move forward.

Democratic Councilman Brian Sullivan was alone in voting against the 
ban Wednesday. He said the majority of people in his

the new district supported legalizing marijuana, so he felt strongly 
about allowing it. Now, Sullivan said, he is concerned about legal 
issues that could follow the county decision.

Voting in favor of the ordinance were Democrats Dave Somers, 
Stephanie Wright and Terry Ryan, and Republican Ken Klein.

Curtismith said there are 36 businesses in the grower group that 
might challenge the ban in court. They invested money to launch their 
businesses and were working through a rigorous permitting process, 
she said, but the rules were changed before they were able to get up 
and running.

"People are trying to build new businesses on land-use rules that are 
like quicksand," Curtismith said. "It was basically a bait and switch."

Council Chairman Somers said he originally believed the county could 
find a way to allow marijuana in the R-5 zone. But because of the 
outpouring of opposition, he decided to support the ban.

Councilman Terry Ryan said he, too, was swayed by homeowners who 
wanted to protect their investments. Many people who spoke at public 
hearings in opposition to marijuana businesses live in areas that are 
zoned R-5.

"I'm going to side with families," Ryan said.

After hearing hours of testimony from people in the newly legal 
industry and their neighbors, the council on March 4 extended the 
moratorium to allow more time to consider permanent rules.

Statewide voters in 2012 approved Initiative 502, which created the 
state's legal recreational marijuana industry, but many local 
jurisdictions have imposed permanent or temporary bans, sometimes 
partial ones, on marijuana businesses. In 2013, the County Council 
enacted policies for pot businesses in unincorporated areas.

After people voiced concerns, the council in October enacted two 
emergency ordinances, one addressing recreational marijuana 
businesses and the other related to medical-marijuana dispensaries and gardens.

Dan Howard, a member of a pot-opposition group from Monroe's Wagner 
Lake area, said he thought the council's decision Wednesday was fair 
because it bans marijuana in some rural areas but also treats it like 
any agricultural product in others.

"I look at this as a winwin," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom