King County puts temporary stop on pot

Editor's note: The Courier-Herald reported in the April 13 article "Enumclaw residents oppose rural pot grows" that five marijuana businesses had pending licenses to operate outside the Enumclaw city limits. There are four marijuana businesses with pending licenses.

Editor’s note: The Courier-Herald reported in the April 13 article “Enumclaw residents oppose rural pot grows” that five marijuana businesses had pending licenses to operate outside the Enumclaw city limits. There are four marijuana businesses with pending licenses.

With Washington’s new rules for recreational and medical marijuana just months away from being implemented, the King County Council approved an emergency moratorium April 25 on all marijuana producers, processors and retailers from opening in unincorporated areas.

The marijuana moratorium, which was sponsored by Councilman Reagan Dunn, will be in place for four months. The moratorium stems from a King County Council town hall meeting on public safety and the county’s upcoming comprehensive plan update April 6.

Several Enumclaw residents spoke at the meeting about licensed marijuana grow operations that have opened, or plan to open, outside the Enumclaw city limits in unincorporated King County.

Among those residents were Lorna Rufener and Barry Quam, who represent a 79-plus group who oppose marijuana grows in their area.

“We all wonder why on earth anybody thinks it’s OK to put a commercial grow site in a residential area like ours,” Quam said during the April 6 meeting.

Quam became involved in getting a moratorium or ban on marijuana businesses in unincorporated King County when he found out a marijuana grow operation two houses down from him was going through the Liquor and Cannabis Board licensing process.

“We don’t want to be looking at 8-foot fences,” Quam continued. “We don’t want to be awake in the middle of the night because of pollution from security lights. We really don’t want to smell the noxious, obnoxious and offensive odors that these sites produce.”

Quam and Rufener had other concerns as well – increased traffic, lowered property rates, the potential attraction of crime – all of which they argue would ruin the rural character of their unincorporated communities.

It was these concerns that prompted the council to approve the emergency moratorium, in order for the council to review these concerns, a press release from Dunn stated.

“For unincorporated communities in King County, the council acts as the local government,” Dunn said in the press release. “It is therefore our job to make sure we are adequately serving and protecting the areas we represent. This moratorium will give us more time to study this issue in more depth and potentially make changes to better preserve rural communities.”

The moratorium is set to expire Sept. 25, three months after the state is set to adopt new Liquor and Cannabis Board rules regarding marijuana on July 1.

The moratorium does not affect any businesses currently licensed and operating in unincorporated King County, but does prevent the county’s department of Permitting and Environmental Review from accepting new permits for potential marijuana businesses, and prohibits licensed but non-operating marijuana businesses from getting started.

The moratorium only affects unincorporated areas and does not affect cities that currently allow marijuana businesses to operate inside their city limits.

This means the four marijuana businesses that have licenses pending with the LCB to operate outside the city limits of Enumclaw may not be able to start their businesses until September.

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