Public testimony leans against recreational marijuana sales in Enumclaw

One after another, citizens stepped to the podium and asked Enumclaw city officials to slam the door on the sale of marijuana for recreational use.

Their comments came during a March 10 public hearing at City Hall, conducted as part of the evening’s regularly-schedule council meeting.

The hearing was made necessary on Jan. 27, when the council took the seldom-used step of declaring an emergency and passing an immediate, six-month moratorium on the production, processing or retail of recreational marijuana within the city limits.

The entire issue stems from the November 2012 statewide vote in support of Initiative 502, allowing the recreation use of marijuana by adults. And the council’s January action came in response to a decision by the state’s attorney general that individual communities retain the right to regulate how marijuana is handled within their borders.

One requirement of January’s moratorium was a public hearing, aimed at determining the community’s general view on marijuana. Of the 13 who stepped forward to share an opinion, 12 decried the potential, legal sale of recreational weed in Enumclaw.

Only one took a middle-of-the-road stance.

John Damazio made it clear from the start he wasn’t taking a position either way. But, he emphasized, his hope is that the city council will eventually render a decision based solely on cold, hard facts.

“I want you guys to pull your emotion out and make your decision based on facts,” he said. “A few things we’ve heard here tonight are, in my opinion, not based in fact, they’re based in emotion.”

The first dozen citizens took a variety of approaches, but all aimed in the same direction – offering their hope that the council will work to prohibit marijuana sales in Enumclaw.

“I want Enumclaw to be known as a beautiful, bucolic town at the base of Mount Rainier,” Jewel Olson said. “I would hate for it to be known as the little town that went to pot.”

Ty Rogel noted his general support for personal freedom, but not when it comes to the implicit support for marijuana use.

As someone who coaches youth soccer, Rogel said, “I have seen wonderful young people spiral into a life of slavery to marijuana use.”

Heather Hogan works in the community to stem the cycle of addiction and abuse. She told the council there are studies showing how young people discount the notion of marijuana being harmful due to the public acceptance of medical marijuana and, since November 2012, recreation marijuana.

Others spoke to the notion of marijuana being a gateway drug that leads to more serious substances. And the night’s first speaker, Robert Meneghini, made it clear he will hold the council accountable if they eventually support sales in the city. He vowed to start a recall campaign against any councilmember voting in support of sales in the city.

The March 10 hearing was just that – a hearing – with comments taken from the audience without council response.

At the start of the meeting, city Community Development Director Erica Shook said the purpose of the moratorium is to give the city time to deal with land-use issues and new regulations, should that be necessary. When the moratorium was enacted, City Administrator Chris Searcy noted the council will have a broad range of options, from the most lenient according to I-502 to a complete ban on sales of recreational marijuana.

The placement of any outlet dealing with the production, processing or sale of marijuana will be determined by the state’s Liquor Control Board. Already on the books is a stipulation that dispensaries for recreational marijuana must be at least 1,000 feet from any school, playground, recreation center, childcare center, public park, transit center, library or game arcade.

Beyond that, regulations exist limiting the number of retail outlets and where they’re placed, with priority given to the most densely-populated regions. For example, King County can have 61 retail stores, with 21 of those earmarked for Seattle. There are no allocations for Enumclaw or Black Diamond specifically, although plans allow for 11 “at large” locations.

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