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Enumclaw City Council public hearing on recreational marijuana sales

Marijuana plant - Courtesy Brandpoint
Marijuana plant
— image credit: Courtesy Brandpoint

What do Enumclaw residents think about marijuana being sold in the community?

That question will be addressed Monday evening when members of the City Council host a public hearing on the matter.

At issue is the potential retail sale of recreational weed, as opposed to the medicinal marijuana that has been readily available to those with the proper credentials.

In late January, council members took the seldom-used step of declaring an emergency and unanimously approved a six-month moratorium on the production, processing or retail sale of marijuana. Included in that directive was the call for a public hearing.

The entire issue has grown out of Initiative 502, passed by Washington voters in November 2012, that allows for the production and sale of marijuana for recreational use. Confusing things is the federal government’s continued declaration that marijuana is a Schedule 1 drug and thus outlawed by the Controlled Substances Act.

Some background

Passage of I-502 might have made sales legal, but provisions were included to keep marijuana dispensaries from sprouting up everywhere. Chief among those is the mandate that any business selling marijuana for recreational use must be at least 1,000 feet from a school, playground, recreation center, childcare center, public park, transit center, library or game arcade.

Beyond that, regulations were put in place limiting the number of retail outlets and where they’re placed, with priority given to the most densely-populated regions. For example, there are no allocations for Enumclaw, Buckley or Black Diamond specifically, although plans allow for “at large” locations.

In the wake of 502’s passage, Enumclaw city staff put together a map, looking at where retail marijuana sales might be allowed – given the “1,000-foot clause” contained in the initiative. It was determined there are several key sites that meet the criteria for legal sales, including properties on Semanski Street and on state Route 410, primarily on the city’s east side.

Spurring city action was a mid-January ruling handed down by the Office of the Attorney General. City Administrator Chris Searcy told the council the AG’s decision allows cities to retain “their normal powers to regulate business through zoning and other means.”

Enacting a six-month moratorium has put the city in a position to examine all its options – from the most lenient stance allowed under 502 to a complete prohibition of marijuana sales.

When the moratorium was approved, City Administrator Chris Searcy told the council a review of all options should include “a public discussion of what does Enumclaw, as a community, really want to do regarding this new state law and the conflict we have with the federal law.”

That was the impetus behind the March 10 public hearing, which will begin at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall. The hearing will be part of the regularly-scheduled council meeting.

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