By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Sequim Community Development Director Chris Hugo had asked the city Planning Commission to recommend to the council an ordinance creating zones for pot shops but banning facilities for producing and processing recreational marijuana, now legal under the voter-approved Initiative 502.
Commissioner Sita Thompson questioned that proposed ban Tuesday, saying the goal of the Planning Commission is to create rules that allow business to set up shop.
“We should be promoting small-business owners and entrepreneurs,” Thompson said before an audience of about a dozen.
Other commissioners agreed they want more discussion about potential benefits and pitfalls of allowing growers and packagers to set up within Sequim before they decide to banish them to outlying areas.
“Those things are going to be well-regulated,” Commissioner Terry Peterson said.
The commission asked Hugo to draw up a proposed ordinance allowing production and processing in the city for its next meeting Feb. 4 and encouraged applicants to attend and say what they would need to set up shop.
“I think we owe it to the public to have a forum and actually discuss it. I think we owe it to the business community to hear from them,” Peterson said.
The state Liquor Control Board has received 28 retail applications, 27 processing applications and 42 producer applications from Clallam County, and 16 retail, 25 producer and 25 processing applications from Jefferson County.
Hugo said he drafted the ordinance to zone retail sales of recreational marijuana, as that is the only thing required of the city under the new pot laws.
“We really only have an obligation to address one of those affirmatively, which is retail sales,” Hugo said.
The state Liquor Control Board allotted one retailer in Sequim.
Of the nine applicants for a retail shop in Sequim, seven are within the city limit.
Another 22 applications were submitted to the liquor board for growing or processing. The only one of those inside the city limit is a processing application from Triple U LLC for 191 W. Maple St.
Hugo's proposed code would limit the retail store to commercial zones on the east and west ends of Washington Street.
David Halpern of Gardiner, a retail license applicant, told the commission the East Washington zone would not work because of a nearby day care facility, from which a pot shop must be 1,000 feet away under the new law.
He added that lease arrangements with some businesses on West Washington Street have complicated his search for a storefront there.
“Whoever gets it, we need to have a place to go to get inside that 1,000-foot” buffer, Halpern said.
“We could wind up having the store and getting a license, and having no place to put it.”
Halpern asked the city to draw a map of potential store locations, saying Port Townsend had done that for applicants there.
Hugo's ordinance also excludes marijuana growing from being considered agriculture, which is allowed in most of the city's zones.
The state will do background checks on applicants, who must be residents of Washington state and have their business areas inspected by the state.
Local governments have 20 days from the date of state notification to take a position on an applicant or not.
Lottery to be scheduled
A lottery, which has not been scheduled, will be held to decide which approved applicants receive retail licenses.
The state has allocated six pot retailers in Clallam County. Along with the one in Sequim, two are allowed in Port Angeles and three others anywhere else in the county.
Jefferson County has four cannabis stores: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else in the county.
Port Angeles and Forks officials have said they are monitoring the implementation of Initiative 502 but have taken no formal positions, while the Port Townsend City Council approved a six-month moratorium on marijuana businesses last August that will expire in February.
Clallam and Jefferson County officials have said they will look to see that applicants meet state rules and land-use regulations.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.