Port Townsend planners to mull marijuana businesses; public hearing slated March 27

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — City government is addressing the marijuana legalization process on two fronts: the regulation of cultivation and production facilities and the location of the town’s only retail pot store.

The Port Townsend Planning Commission heard Thursday an update on the potential siting of growing and processing businesses within the city limits as well as an update as to where the city’s sole retailer may be located.

The commission has scheduled a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. March 27 in council chambers at City Hall, 540 Water St., to collect input about land use and regulations.

While eight retail licenses are currently under consideration, the most likely location is Herbal Access at 2427 W. Sims Way, which is now operating as a medical marijuana dispensary.

Of the rest, six are apparently ineligible while the seventh, Green House at 1230 W. Sims Way near QFC, will not open because of refinancing issues.

“We were ready to go and were within the boundaries, but I was told by my bank they would not refinance the property if it contained a marijuana business,” said Ken McBride, who owns the property.

“It’s ironic how this was made legal, approved by the voters, and they pull the rug out from under us.”

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

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

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

The Liquor Control Board said it has 34 pending license applications that are listed with a Port Townsend mailing address, although not all are within the city limits.

This includes 12 for production, 13 for processing and nine potential retailers.

One of the proposed retailers, Sea Change Cannabis at 282332 U.S. Highway 101, is located in Discovery Bay.

Of the remainder, two locations seem to fulfill siting requirements while the rest most likely will be disqualified because of their proximity to parks and schools.

State law requires a 1,000 foot buffer between those areas and any marijuana business.

Two locations now operating as medical facilities apparently do not qualify because of their proximity to parks: the Townsend Herbal Collective at 1139 Water St., and the Alternative Clinic at 1433 W. Sims Way.

Two locations originally thought to be allowed — 803 N. Park St. and 2328 E. Sims Way, the former home of Akamai Art Supply — were disqualified because of their proximity to Jefferson County Mental Health at 884 W. Park St., since it qualifies as a school, according to John McDonough, a senior planner for the city.

This newly discovered restriction rules out the location of any marijuana enterprise in the business park, McDonough said.

While confirming these assessments of the property, McDonough said he would not speculate which properties would be approved or rejected by the liquor control board.

“Things are changing so quickly, so I won’t speculate about what action they might take,” he said.

“A lot of it has to do with the definition of a park, as some city owned land that is referred to as a park may not fall under those standards.”

Applicants for retail licenses were initially to be vetted by the Liquor Control Board before entering a lottery, but that changed, according to Forrest Thomson, owner of Herbal Access.

“They were so overwhelmed that they decided to hold the lottery first and check people out later,” Thomson said.

With the presumed disqualification of the six properties and McBride’s decision to not pursue the matter, Thomson could win the lottery by default.

A moratorium on the establishment of any marijuana related business outside of the business district is in effect until August.

That could be rescinded by the council once guidelines are established.

Jefferson County officials are using present zoning laws to consider pot businesses.

The governments of Clallam County, Port Angeles and Forks have yet to make any rules regarding marijuana, while the Sequim City Council has a moratorium on recreational marijuana shops.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 16. 2014 7:47PM
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