Port Townsend City Council to consider pot rules Monday night

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The City Council will hear public comment Monday before considering guidelines for medical and recreational marijuana, along with rules for growing and processing the drug within the city limit.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at historic City Hall, 540 Water St.

The council will discuss guidelines that were developed by the Port Townsend Planning Commission, which first addressed the matter in December, and conduct a public hearing before considering approval of zoning changes on a first reading.

The second reading — and final approval — would be considered July 21. If the changes are approved, the new zoning laws would take effect in five days.

If approved, the changes would end a city-imposed moratorium for the establishment of those business.

That would leave Sequim as the only city on the North Olympic Peninsula with a marijuana moratorium.

State voters approved medical marijuana for those with doctor prescriptions in 1998.

They legalized the recreational use of marijuana, as well as its sale to adults older than 21 at state-licensed stores, when they approved Initiative 502 in November 2012.

The state Liquor Control Board issued the first 24 licenses to operate retail pot shops last week. None is on the North Olympic Peninsula.

There are no Port Townsend city requirements, aside from granting a business license, for retail marijuana locations.

The state is permitting one such shop in Port Townsend and three anywhere else in the county.

A shop at 1433 Sims Way is presumed to be the city’s sole outlet.

Owner Gracen Hook said last week that he doesn’t expect to open in the next few months and would wait until reasonably priced product would be available.

Hook’s current location is now a medical marijuana dispensary, which he plans to convert to a retail outlet.

As many as 10 shops will be allowed on the Peninsula under the Liquor Board’s allocation.

The state allotted Clallam County six retail stores: two in Port Angeles, one in Sequim and three anywhere else.

Recreational grow or processing operations within the city limit would first need to satisfy all the state requirements. The city would require locations to be within specific business or commercial zones, according to planner John McDonough.

The Port Townsend Business Park on the south end of town was at first thought to be an area where such businesses could be located, but the city found that a Jefferson County mental health facility within the business park established a buffer that prohibited any such enterprise.

McDonough said other commercial/industrial areas between Sims Way and the mill can be used, although “they might be hard to service.”

The city would allow grow or processing operations in the business/commercial zone, although a conditional-use permit would be required, McDonough said.

The state Liquor Control Board has not issued any licenses in Jefferson County to grow or process recreational marijuana.

On the North Olympic Peninsula, only three production and processing facilities have been approved from the 128 who applied for state licenses. They are in Forks, Port Angeles and Sequim.

The proposed new regulations would allow private collective gardens in residential areas as long as they are not within a buffer zone and do not impact the neighborhood with noise, smells or increased traffic.

These gardens, which McDonough said may now exist illegally, are restricted to only a few members, cannot sell or give away their product and can have up to 15 plants and 24 ounces available at a time.

Port Townsend currently has two medical marijuana dispensaries: Townsend Herbal Collective at 1139 Water St. and Herbal Access, 2427 Sims Way, that operate in the business district.

The rules for them haven’t changed, and they would not be affected by the ordinance.

According to a presentation prepared by McDonough, the city policy would differ from that of Jefferson County.

The county perceived marijuana as an agricultural product permitted in all zones, while the city would restrict growing and processing to manufacturing and commercial areas, with a conditional-use permit required.

The county allows outdoor production, while the city would require all growing operations, medical or recreational, to occur indoors.

The county has no rules about medical grows, while the city would require registration, member limits and restrictions on processing.

McDonough said medical collective gardens within the city limit would be registered with the city “like a day care center” and a matter of public record, although patient names would not be subject to disclosure.

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

Last modified: July 12. 2014 5:47PM
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