Pot businesses to be kept out of Port Townsend residential neighborhoods

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — While the finer points of regulating marijuana businesses within the city limits are still under development, it is already certain that businesses serving the recreational market will not be allowed in local neighborhoods.

“On the recreational side, there is really nothing that will be allowed in residential areas,” said senior planner John McDonagh, who has provided the lead in the development of the city’s marijuana regulations.

The Port Townsend Planning Commission is scheduled to hear a report at 6:30 p.m. today in council chambers, 540 Water St.

Public comment will be taken at that time and may be incorporated into any future policy.

“I’m not aware of any cities that are allowing I-502 activity in residential areas,” McDonagh said.

Initiative 502, passed statewide by voters in 2012, legalized the controlled growing and sales of recreational marijuana.

McDonagh said it is a common misconception that such businesses could become a home occupation “cottage industry,” a move the code amendments will not allow.

“You can’t do taxes on the side and have a marijuana business in the garage,” McDonagh said.

“This is not a business that is suited for a residence at this point.

“Although in five or 10 years, these parameters could very well evolve.”

McDonagh said there is a distinction between medical and recreational marijuana that must be addressed in the city code, which is under development.

McDonagh said that production of medical marijuana for the use of the individual patient will be allowed under the proposed code.

Individuals who prepare different marijuana products such as brownies and tinctures will be tolerated and become “a low law enforcement priority” as long as they are not sold for consumption either by medical or retail sources.

“I-502 is very restrictive. It’s seed to sale,” McDonagh said.

“You as a retailer need to know where all the products come from. From the time it was germinated to the time it was processed, there is a very strict policy.”

Those who make baked goods as a hobby won’t be affected “as long as they stay hobbyists,” McDonagh said.

McDonagh, who has worked for the city for 14 years, was assigned to manage the marijuana regulations and finds similarities “with any other land use programs” as there are rules that need to be followed that are for the most part clearly defined by the state.

“It’s similar to the regular assignment of code regulations. Most cities have needed to address this land-use issue one way or another,” he said.

“I haven’t tracked the time I’ve spent on it and don’t think it’s been untoward in terms of other projects. In some ways it’s been fairly simple.

“We are dealing with marijuana in the same way as we are for other forms of use.”

McDonagh said the soonest any permanent code adjustments would be in place would be in late May, but there is no rush as the state has not granted any licenses for production, processing or retail.

All three could be allowed in the business district, although there are only a few areas that are outside of the 1,000-foot buffer surrounding parks and schools.

Production and processing is also allowed in the City’s Mixed Light Manufacturing and Commercial (M/C) zones, of which there is a relatively small supply of this land that has the infrastructure needed for actual development.

The Port Townsend Business Park at the south end of the city has he infrastructure but cannot be used due to its proximity to a school operated by Jefferson County Mental Health.

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

Last modified: March 26. 2014 6:47PM
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