Pubdate: Fri, 18 Mar 2016
Source: Herald, The (Everett, WA)
Copyright: 2016 The Daily Herald Co.
Author: Chris Winters


EVERETT - The Everett City Council has said "no more" to would-be 
marijuana retailers.

On Wednesday the council imposed a cap on the number of shops 
operating in the city, limiting the number to the five shops already 
open. The cap will last a minimum of two years.

The 4-2 vote came after weeks of debate that was thought to have been 
put to rest after the city adopted its "permanent" ordinance last July.

What changed since then was the state Liquor and Cannabis Board's 
decision to double the number of retail shops allowed in each 
municipality, an attempt to compensate for the fact that most medical 
marijuana dispensaries across the state are being shut down mid-year.

That move caught a number of people by surprise.

Councilman Scott Bader cited that lack of warning, plus the fact that 
aside from Everett, only Lake Stevens and Snohomish County have 
allowed retailers to open, as reasons for putting a cap in place. 
Most other cities in the county have imposed moratoria or outright 
bans on retail operations.

"I feel Everett fulfilled its original obligation, and at the time no 
one mentioned that five stores wasn't going to be enough," Bader said.

"It's time for others jurisdictions to step forward before we become 
place to get marijuana," he said.

Bader was joined by councilmembers Jeff Moore, Scott Murphy and 
Cassie Franklin in approving the cap.

The majority was supported by a number of people in recent weeks who 
encouraged the council to adopt the cap, citing reasons ranging from 
public perception to health concerns.

"While these stores are recognized by Washington law, they do not 
improve the quality of life in Everett," resident Alan Poul said.

Poul also encouraged the city council to push back against any 
further efforts by the state to increase the number of pot shops in the city.

Jessica Jordan, the owner of Mari J's Highway Pot Shop in southeast 
Everett, also testified in favor of the cap. She said after the 
meeting that her concerns are primarily about large operators moving 
into the city and squeezing out smaller shops like hers.

Given the high taxes imposed on the industry, Jordan said her 
break-even point is around $200,000 in monthly sales, which she has 
not yet achieved since opening last summer.

The state is attempting to merge the unregulated medical marijuana 
industry into the highly regulated recreational industry. That is 
part of an agreement the state has with the federal government, in 
return for which the U.S. Department of Justice said in a 2013 memo 
that it would deemphasize enforcement against the new legal operators 
in the industry.

The increase in the number of retailers, plus the issuing of new 
medical endorsements for those stores, was intended to ensure a 
continued supply of medical cannabis products for approved patients.

Allan Giffen, Everett's director of planning, said four out of the 
five shops in the city have obtained or are in the process of getting 
medical endorsements.

Councilman Paul Roberts said there wasn't an assurance that the 
current five stores will fulfill the demand for medical products.

"What we ought to be doing is (ensuring that) if you're going to be 
selling marijuana under the retail here that you're also providing 
the medical here," Roberts said.

He said he felt the city's current regulations were enough to address 
concerns. He was joined by councilwoman Judy Tuohy in voting against the cap.

Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher, who also has argued against the cap, 
was absent from the meeting.

A number of people representing the medical marijuana industry, as 
well as some patients, also tried to prevent the cap from being enacted.

Sean O'Sullivan, a lobbyist for the industry, testified that even if 
the current retailers offered medical products, it wasn't certain 
whether it would be enough, and certainly the profit motive would 
encourage them to sell the more expensive retail products.

"The dollars are going to come from the recreational shops, and 
they're going to charge as much as they can," O'Sullivan said.

The ordinance requires the city council to review its policy before 
June 1, 2018 to determine whether the cap should be changed.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom