Jefferson County commissioners told of needs, dilemmas of marijuana regulation
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The permit application process will open Nov. 20, with applicants required to present a business plan, financing data and a location that is not within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other designated facilities.
Four licensed retailers are permitted in the county with one of those within the Port Townsend city limit, where the City Council has imposed a moratorium on granting any licenses until March 3.
“The Liquor Board will give local jurisdictions 20 days to comment about any application, and we will examine them for compliance to the 1,000-foot rule and any other issues,” county Community Development Director Carl Smith told commissioners at their Monday meeting.
“We don’t have veto power, but the Liquor Board will give substantial weight to local jurisdictions.”
In addition to retail, the county will regulate the other two categories of marijuana business: growing the crop and processing the cannabis extract into food products.
The former will require compliance with stringent guidelines while the latter must be located in an industrial area, Smith said.
Smith said all facilities will require tightly controlled security that includes cameras, alarms and fences. Enforcement of these rules will be the responsibility of the county.
While the county will collect some sales tax from retail marijuana sales, it will not receive a larger portion of the funds generated by the 25 percent taxes that will be imposed during each step of the process, he said.
“They have come up with an excise tax that will be imposed, and after that, expenses will be disbursed by various agencies. But local jurisdictions are not on that list,” Smith said.
“Local jurisdictions will be responsible for law enforcement, regulatory enforcement, health follow-up and legal follow-up, so not including them in the funds disbursement is, in my opinion, an oversight.”
County Administrator Philip Morley said the proposal to channel the funds to local jurisdictions is an appropriate cause for the Washington State Association of Counties to address.
Such changes will require a two-thirds legislative approval as Initiative 502 — the 2012 measure that legalized recreational marijuana use — spelled out beneficiaries for the funds, none of which is a local jurisdiction.
Another process regulated by the county is the disposal of waste from a growing or processing facility.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Alvarez said any waste product from a marijuana operation that is composted must be diluted with 50 percent non-marijuana product before entering the compost pile.
Environmental Health and Water Quality Director Jared Keefer said not all of the process have been defined.
“We don’t know to what extent health departments will be allowed to regulate the process,” he said.
“We usually regulate food sanitation and safety, but this could be delegated to the Liquor Control Board, and it’s up in the air as to who will be issuing the food permits for the manufacturing facilities.”
Food products that are now available for medical use that could be made available to the general public include baked goods, candy and foods such as lasagna, Keefer said.
Most of the regulations in place for control of other businesses such as building permits and wastewater permits will easily translate to marijuana operations, Smith said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: October 14. 2013 6:37PM