The Bonney Lake City Council voted unanimously on Sept. 23 to extend the moratorium on recreational marijuana for an additional 120 days.
A public hearing on the moratorium extension will be Oct. 28. Bonney Lake residents are not required to sign up for the hearing – any comments to be made about the moratorium can be made during citizen comments.
The council decided to extend the moratorium to continue exploring the Planning Commission’s proposed options, which were to:
• ban recreational marijuana businesses from Bonney Lake;
• or establish additional zoning requirements for marijuana retailers and only ban marijuana producers and processors;
• or allow the moratorium to expire and allow marijuana businesses in Bonney Lake, provided they follow Washington’s Liquor Control Board zoning requirements.
During the council’s workshop on Sept. 16, council members decided to continue exploring the full or partial ban options on recreational marijuana businesses.
No council member voiced approval for allowing the moratorium to expire and allow producers, processors and retailers to set up shop in the city.
Senior Planner Jason Sullivan presented a timeline to the council to explain how quickly the council could expect to adopt an ordinance.
“We came up with a work plan to get this done in 90 days,” Sullivan said, and explained that both the ordinances for a total ban and partial ban have been drafted.
Sullivan also said a public hearing on both ordinances is scheduled for Nov. 19 during a Planning Commission meeting, a city council workshop on both ordinances scheduled for Dec. 2, and that the council could adopt an ordinance on Dec. 9.
“We would be done before the end of the year,” Sullivan said.
The moratorium was originally going to be extended by 90 days, but several council members expressed concern 90 days may be too short to fully explore the options and submit the proposed development and zoning regulations to the Washington State Department of Commerce, which must be done 60 days before final adoption into city regulation. The council then unanimously agreed to extend the moratorium to 120 days to allow for any additional time to make a final decision without extending the moratorium a fifth time.
In contrast to Bonney Lake’s moratorium, the city of Buckley opened its first recreational marijuana retail shop, Mr. Bills.
Buckley Mayor Pat Johnson said that the city looked at implementing a ban, but “Buckley is just too small to fight that sort of battle,” she said. “That’s tax dollars spent to fight an issue voters already approved.”
According to the Pierce County Auditor’s Office, 53 percent of voters in Buckley approved of Initiative 502, and 47 percent voted against.
Bonney Lake had similar results – around 53 percent of voters approved of the initiative, and 47 percent were against. Unincorporated Pierce County votes were not included in those counts, due to voting precincts overlapping city limits.
Johnson also said Buckley may get a second marijuana retail store, and there have been inquiries made regarding a marijuana producer.
Johnson’s biggest concern about legalized marijuana was that the majority of the money from sales goes back to the state.
According to the Liquor Control Board, legal marijuana has a 25 percent excise tax when the product changes hands from a producer to a processor to a retailer. Money made from this tax is returned to the state, and local governments only receive their local sales tax when the product is sold.
“The state should share money with the cities that stepped up to the plate,” Johnson said.
Local governments do not receive sales tax when a producer sells marijuana to a processor, or a processor to a retailer, according to the Department on Revenue. Local governments only get sales tax when a marijuana retailer sells to a customer.
“You have to look at it like a liquor store – just because it’s there doesn’t mean people are going to go,” Johnson said. “At least now, people aren’t sneaking around and getting it illegally.”