The Bonney Lake Planning Commission presented to the City Council three options for regulating the marijuana industry in Bonney Lake during the Sept. 9 City Council meeting.
The council forwarded the discussion of these options to the City Council workshop on Sept. 16.
After the council passed Ordinance 1481 last April – extending the moratorium on producing, processing and the retail sale of marijuana in the city – the council tasked the Planning Commission with developing marijuana business regulations in Bonney Lake.
The moratorium expires in October if it is not renewed or extended by the council. “The city attorney is drafting an ordinance right now to consider extending the ordinance between 75 and 90 days,” said City Administrator Don Morrison.
The reason for the extension, Morrison said, is so that the City Council can review these options before making a decision.
In a nutshell, the three options that the Planning Commission researched and presented were:
• a total ban of all state-licensed marijuana businesses,
• allow state-licensed retail stores to operate in the city but ban producers and processors,
• or allow the moratorium to expire and rely solely on the state Liquor Control Board business regulations regarding state-licensed marijuana.
“Option one and three are pretty cut and dry,” said Grant Sulham, the chair of the Planning Commission. “In the middle, there is a gray area, and these are some things that we can see might work well.”
The Planning Commission’s options are not set in stone, and the council can vote on one or neither of the options.
For the first option, a full ban on state-licensed marijuana businesses in Bonney Lake, the Planning Commission had to consider legal advice on whether or not Bonney Lake was preempted by state law from establishing a complete ban.
The Planning Commission cited the Washington State Attorney General’s brief that stated local governments are not preempted from banning marijuana businesses and 1-502 has no language that prevents city authority from banning marijuana businesses.
The Planning Commission also cited the Pierce County Superior Court’s ruling that upheld the city of Fife’s ban on marijuana businesses. The ruling stated I-502 language does not preempt traditional zoning authority, which is held by local jurisdictions.
Morrison said that the state attorney general’s opinion and the Pierce County Court case is important for mounting a defense for a ban.
“A lot of people suspect that the legislature will deal with this,” said Morrison. “They might, they might not. They could preempt the cities, or they could follow the Colorado model and give cities authority to opt out. But that’s all pure speculation as to what might happen.”
Option two involves establishing additional zoning regulations for marijuana businesses in addition to the state Liquor Control Board regulations, and banning the production and processing of marijuana in the city. The ban could be revised later if the state solves some of the environmental and safety issues with the production and processing of marijuana.
Under option two marijuana retail shops could only operate in portions of Midtown and Eastown in Bonney Lake, based on the liquor board regulation. Additionally, marijuana businesses cannot operate within 1,000 feet of elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, child care centers, public parks, public transit centers or libraries.
One of the Planning Commission suggestions was the city should expand the definition of parks and playgrounds to include privately owned parks, in order to keep marijuana use away from areas that attract children. Based on state code, the Planning Commission said only parks and playgrounds owned by the local, state, or federal government would apply to the 1,000 foot buffer zone. Parks like Swiss Park, which is not government-owned, and homeowner association parks are exempt from that buffer zone.
If the council expanded the liquor board definition of parks and playgrounds to include non-government owned parks, most of Midtown would be excluded for marijuana retails shops.
The ban on businesses that produce and process marijuana stem from several environmental concerns, including carbon footprints and chemical safety. One of the Planning Commissions biggest concern about production and processing is the carbon footprint and energy consumption of the business, according to Sulham. The Planning Commission cited how grow operations typically use high intensity discharge lights to grow the marijuana plant, which uses a lot of energy. One high intensity lamp, lit for 12 hours a day, consumes 360 kilowatts per month. A grow operation using 20 lights for 12 hours a day could use as much as 7,200 KW a month.
For scale, the average single family home uses 700 to 1,200 KW per month, according to the Planning Commission.
The Planning Commission also cited grow operations often have a high-oxygen atmosphere, which is flammable, and some processes to extract the chemical tetrahydrocannabinol and other oils from the plants use hydrocarbons like N-butane and isobutane, which are also combustible.
Grow operations may also use pesticides and other fertilizers for the marijuana plants. Water used with fertilizers must be treated before entering the storm water or sewage system, because nitrates and phosphates in fertilizer can negatively affect water systems, “like Fennel Creek, which is a salmon producing stream,” Sulham said.
Another concern the Planning Commission had about retail stores is the lack of Food and Drug Administration oversight.
“Typically, food manufacturers are inspected by the FDA,” said Jason Sullivan, senior city planner for Bonney Lake. “But both the FDA and United States Drug Administration wouldn’t inspect somebody who produces a federally illegal substance.” Additionally, the Planning Commission indicated there is currently no inspection or license procedures for marijuana-infused food products, like brownies.
The third option is to let the moratorium end, and allow licensed marijuana retail stores to operate solely under liquor board regulations. “Some (council members) that would support an outright ban, and some that would support having special zoning,” said Sulham, “but I don’t think anyone is supporting the other option of doing nothing.”