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Federal Way Planning Commissioners, License Applicants Speak Out On Banning Marijuana

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Washington State - The Federal Way Planning Commission's vote to recommend a ban on all marijuana retail businesses last week was a surprise, even to the commissioners who voted for it. "Until we got down to the vote, I had no idea," said Diana Noble-Gulliford, the commissioner who seconded the motion to ban the businesses. "I think everybody was surprised the vote went that way."

After hearing a presentation by city Senior Planner Janet Shull and discussing the details at length, Vice Chair Lawson Bronson made a motion to ban marijuana-related businesses in Federal Way. The motion was passed with a vote of five in favor and one opposed. City staff initially recommended marijuana retail businesses be allowed to operate within the Community Business and Commercial Enterprise zoning districts, while the production and processing facilities were to be in the Commercial Enterprise zone only.

The city of Federal Way imposed a temporary one-year ban on recreational marijuana business last November. Noble-Gulliford said while she believes everyone on the commission has their individual concerns, a lack of history on this issue and the potential pitfalls, mixed with the risks such as that the businesses would operate on a cash-only basis, are among her top worries.

"I put a lot of thought into how I felt about it," she said. "At this time, we don't have enough answers to allow those businesses into our community ... We have a lot of issues like other communities do in our civilization and population, dealing with the homeless and crime, and I think we just voted against it right now with the knowledge that we can go back and visit it later."

Bronson, the one who motioned the recommended ban, said it was his understanding that there were two choices: Vote on staff recommendation or ban the businesses altogether. "My impression was the majority of us didn't know enough about what might happen going forward so we made a motion to ban it," he said. "... We don't know enough of what the impacts might be if we let those businesses come in Federal Way."

Bronson would not elaborate on what more information he would have liked to see, nor his concerns about what the impacts of marijuana on a community were. "There are too many unanswered questions about the effects of marijuana," he stated, directing the Mirror to listen to the Planning Commission's discussion on the topic on the city's website for more information.

Wayne Carlson, the only commissioner to vote against the ban, said he did so because he doesn't typically vote to ban specific uses. He said he believes city staff does well in ensuring design standards and guidelines are on par with zoning code and compatible with other zone uses. "When the motion came to ban the use, I didn't see that coming," Carlson said. "I anticipated that the recommendation would be to approve the staff's report as presented but I would have been voting no on that as well." Carlson said he thinks there needs to be additional criteria for marijuana retail businesses, specifically a more stringent 1,000-foot buffer radius that would apply to more sensitive areas than what the Washington State Liquor Control Board currently recommends.

"It's my opinion that they needed to have a radius or separation from the level three group homes and the reason I say that is because about two months ago before, roughly, we were considering language related to group homes, which are essential public facilities, so you have to accommodate them," Carlson said. "It struck me that the areas we were proposing to have the marijuana retail establishments were the same areas for the group homes." Level three group homes house sex offenders and other law violators.

Shull said there are currently no level three group homes in Federal Way but the available zones for the homes are similar to the 1,000-foot buffer laws the marijuana stores are under. The law states both facilities cannot be within 1,000 feet of schools, public libraries, transit centers, parks and other places where children are present. Carlson noted there was another commissioner who would have liked to see a 1,000-foot buffer added to all of the churches in Federal Way as well.

"Federal Way is so residential, there's [many] schools, parks, churches, it just comes down to the same areas that would be available for potential use," Shull said, adding that the city could not preclude the level three group homes. "There's no other option when you apply those separation standards." But George Garrett, who owns one of the marijuana retail businesses, wrote in a letter to the Planning Commission indicating that his statement is simple.

"Residents of Federal Way are using marijuana and marijuana-related products every day, despite the ban on legal retail marijuana facilities," Garrett wrote. "Without any legal channels by which to obtain marijuana currently, a marijuana consumer is forced to obtain his or her product on the black market." Garrett owns Green Grotto LLC and is one of three who were chosen by the Liquor Control Board among many marijuana retail license applicants looking to set up shop in Federal Way.

By allowing a legal and "highly regulated" marijuana business into the community, it not only takes the business out of the black market but it contributes to the community by generating "well-paying" jobs and tax revenues, he continued. Although it currently stands that only the state of Washington will receive tax dollars from marijuana sales, Garret noted the underground economy for marijuana ends up supporting illegal activities "locally, nationally and beyond our borders."

Longtime Federal Way businessman John Tsakonas was also one of the chosen marijuana retail license applicants and he believes the city is making a mistake. "People who smoke marijuana are going to use it whether they buy it legally or not," Tsakonas said, who hopes to set up a marijuana retail store called JST International. "If I had a store, it would be very clean -- no riff raffs. I think that's the stigma with the 502 stores, that it's going to create more users but it's older people, nice clean professional people [who patron the current retailers]."

Tsakonas said he thought it would be a great idea for the city of Federal Way to allow at least one as a pilot trial period before the permanently ban a business that could help their economy. "I've got a lot of money invested," he said, referring to the possibility of JST International becoming a reality. "I'm paying money on an empty building and it's not cheap."

Initiative 502 was passed by Washington voters in November 2012. Based on raw precinct data, Shull said 53 percent of Federal Way citizens voted 'yes' on I-502. The city-enacted moratorium on marijuana business will expire on Nov. 5. The Planning Commission's recommendation will be heard at an upcoming Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting. The committee meets at 5:30 p.m. on the first Monday of every month in the Council Chambers. Councilman Bob Celski chairs the committee with Councilwomen Kelly Maloney and Lydia Assefa-Dawson as members. Their decision will then be forwarded to the Federal Way City Council for a vote at a later date.



News Moderator - The General @ 420 MAGAZINE ®
Source: Federalwaymirror.com
Author: Raechel Dawson
Contact: Contact Us
Website: Federal Way Planning Commissioners, license applicants speak out on banning marijuana retail - Federal Way Mirror
 
Re: Federal Way Planning Commissioners, License Applicants Speak Out On Banning Marij

Let's look at the whole picture, shall we?

If there were no stores that sold alcohol in this city, then consumers would have to travel further to buy it. Now, when we're talking about alcohol (or bars), why would you want people to be driving further to buy (or consume) it? That just increases the risks.

And wouldn't you say the same with cannabis? Why increase the risks around consumption? Sure, it's illegal to drink and drive, and it's illegal to toke and drive, but that doesn't stop people from doing it.

Currently, most cannabis lovers like to partake at home, but that won't always be the case...