Jefferson County, Port Townsend city split over how to permit pot growing, processing
Jefferson County Planning Director Stacie Hoskins inspects some of the applications for marijuana operations in the unincorporated parts of the county. —Photo by Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We discussed this with the departments that are most affected: community development, the sheriff and health,” said county Department of Community Development Planning Director Stacie Hoskins.
“We feel that our existing regulations address whatever we may face.”
“There is really nothing we can do right now to get ready,” said Chief Criminal Deputy Joe Nole.
“We don’t have any worries about what will happen when it takes full effect.”
Port Townsend’s Development Services Department is writing an ordinance to determine rules for home-based marijuana businesses within the city limit, said Rick Sepler, department director.
The proposed law will be presented to the city Planning Commission on March 27.
The state Liquor Control Board is implementing the 2012 initiative that legalized and regulated the growing, processing and distribution of marijuana to adults 21 and older.
Possession by anyone younger than 21, possession of larger amounts and the growing of unlicensed or unregulated marijuana remain illegal under state law.
Cannabis remains classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law and subject to federal prosecution.
Over the next few months, licenses to grow, process and sell marijuana will be awarded by the state, with the counties and cities involved in where those businesses will be located.
Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana is commensurate with an alcohol-related violation.
The community development department is the county agency currently most involved with the legalization process with its efforts focused on permitting, Hoskins said.
The vetting of the licensees to determine whether there are any disqualifying aspects in their background is the state’s responsibility, she said.
She has received 13 applications and returned seven to the state with recommendations to approve or disapprove.
Four applications received disapproval recommendations because they did not have a “cottage industry” permit, which is required for processing.
Planners determine whether a site is outside the buffer zone of 1,000 feet from parks, schools and county-owned property.
If a site falls within the buffers, Hoskins must determine what parcel triggers the violation and whether the county property is not a public park she will recommend passage.
“We will recommend rejection if it is close to a public park where kids gather but will allow it if it’s just a wooded area or a wetland,” she said.
Another permitting concern is air quality. Some facilities are required to get a permit from the Olympic Region Clean Air Agency.
“In this case, they are concerned about composing and burning and its effect on the surrounding areas,” Hoskins said.
Hoskins said there is no difference in granting a permit to a marijuana business or any other type of business; the same criteria will be used.
The department issues permits outside the Port Townsend city limit.
Permits inside Port Townsend are issued by city government.
Like the county, the city will address the location of home-based businesses in outbuildings and how they will be controlled.
“We need to provide data as to exactly where they are located, and if we assign them addresses, that opens up a new issue, and they can be rented out in the future,” Sepler said.
Sepler said the city will state a preference for indoor growing operations, as those located outside will require 8-foot fences and security that is more difficult to enforce.
Sepler said the due date for a draft recommendation to the Planning Commission is March 15 and will include guidelines for the location of all three categories.
Retail outlets, the last to be addressed, most likely will be on Upper Sims Way between the two traffic circles, he has said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: February 22. 2014 5:42PM