Sequim City Council keeps pot moratorium, delays zoning decision

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Citing fears of violating federal law, the City Council has decided to keep a moratorium on recreational marijuana shops in place and to put off a decision on proposed zoning that would limit the one pot shop the state has allocated to Sequim to the city’s heavy commercial districts.

“I am opposed to the retail sale location in Sequim,” Councilman Ted Miller said.

After a public hearing in which several citizens spoke for and against pot shops in Sequim, the council voted 5-1 Monday, with Councilman Ken Hays voting no, to delay pot zoning regulations and to leave in place the moratorium instituted Feb. 24.

“I think we should go ahead and move ahead with the approval of retail sales locations,” Hays said.

“I think it’s inevitable. I think it would be a smart first step.”

The council is expected to review the zoning regulations at its next meeting, March 24, at
6 p.m. at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

The state Liquor Control Board is implementing the statewide initiative voters approved in November 2012 that legalized and regulated the growing, processing and distribution of marijuana to adults 21 and older.

The Liquor Board issued its first permit to a grower in Spokane last week.

The state has allotted areas with certain numbers of retail stores, with Sequim given one. Growers and possessors are not limited in the same way.

The council approved a six-month moratorium banning any pot businesses Feb. 24.

The Planning Commission also had recommended zoning regulations that ban the production and processing of marijuana and limit retail sales of recreational marijuana to the dense commercial zones on the east and west ends of Washington Street.

In voting down the pot zoning regulations, Miller said council members swore oaths to uphold the U.S. Constitution when they took office.

“Not the constitution of Washington, the constitution of the United States,” he said, citing the federal Constitution’s supremacy clause, which says federal law trumps local laws. “The fact of the matter is, it’s against federal law.”

Miller’s official oath of office signed January 6 and on file with the Clallam County Auditor’s office reads, “I, Ted Miller, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully and impartially and to the best of my ability, perform the duties of the office of Sequim City Council member, in accordance with the laws of the State of Washington, and all other applicable legal enactments of the City of Sequim, Washington.”

Councilman Erik Erichsen agreed with Miller’s assertion that federal laws should trump local laws.

“I’ve been an employee and been in service to the United States federal government most of my life,” Erichsen said. “And federal laws come first, over any other.”

Miller also said, “There’s a clear majority of people in Sequim that are opposed to having a store in the city.”

Sequim voters gave 52 percent approval to Initiative 502, which passed in Clallam County by 55 percent and in neighboring Jefferson County by 65 percent.

Miller, though, said many of those were more in favor of decriminalizing marijuana instead of legalizing it.

Several of those who spoke at Monday’s hearing spoke in favor of letting a pot shop set up in Sequim.

“The voters have spoken, and we’d like to see the council lean forward on this,” Judith Parker said.

Mark Ozias, owner of the Red Rooster grocery store and director of the city’s food bank, said a shop would encourage “a lot of economic activity and bring much benefit to the city.”

While city officials noted that the city would not get direct tax revenue from a pot shop, Ozias said a shop would occupy vacant buildings, provide local jobs and bring benefits to other businesses.

William Walsh of the Dungeness Valley said he was concerned about the lights, fencing and other security measures that would go along with warehouse-style grow operations.

“You basically are going to have an agriculturally zoned area that is going to look like an industrial site,” he said.

The zoning rules the council rejected Monday explicitly declare marijuana as not being an agricultural commodity. Agriculture is allowed in the city’s urban residential II and mixed-use zones, which cover most of the city.

Clallam County is allowed a maximum of six retail stores, including two in Port Angeles and three anywhere else.

Jefferson County will get four retail cannabis stores: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else.

Clallam County, Port Angeles and Forks have yet to make any rules regarding marijuana.

Jefferson County officials are using present zoning laws to consider pot businesses, while Port Townsend’s Planning Commission is expected to consider a proposal for home-based marijuana businesses March 27.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 11. 2014 6:37PM
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