Port Townsend City Council to consider final rules on medical marijuana Monday

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — A policy governing the zoning of medical marijuana growing, processing and distribution within the city limit received some fine-tuning this week in anticipation of the ordinance’s possible approval Monday.

The City Council is scheduled to hear a second reading of the ordinance and consider final approval at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at historic City Hall, 540 Water St.

The ordinance would clear the way for medically oriented collective gardens to operate in residential neighborhoods with some restrictions, according to planner John McDonough.

The new ordinance would suspend interim regulations approved by the council in August and renewed in February that restricted growing, processing and distribution of medical marijuana in residential areas and were put into place until a zoning policy could be discussed, according to Development Services Director Rick Sepler.

The city never instituted a moratorium, according to Sepler, since it allowed operation of medical marijuana in the business district while restricting actions outside of that area until the policy was developed.

The ordinance would not affect recreational retail outlets or recreational growing and processing operations.

Collective gardens are organizations that can cultivate, process and distribute medical product to its members, which are restricted in number.

These enterprises fall into two categories: commercial and noncommercial. Both require participants to have valid physician authorization for the use of medical pot.

Commercial ventures operate from a storefront in the designated business district and have a fluid membership, with people signing in and out each time they visit the dispensary.

The Port Townsend ordinance seeks to differentiate these enterprises, of which there are three in Port Townsend, with the noncommercial home-based gardens.

Under the proposed ordinance, each garden would be restricted to 10 members over a six-month period.

If one member left, then another would not be able to join until the proscribed period ended.

Gardens would be allowed in private homes under some restrictions.

They would not be allowed within 300 feet of schools or parks. Growing activity would have to be in a secure building, and the operation itself could not be visible from any city-owned right of way.

Gardens would be restricted to single-family homes and would not be allowed in duplexes, apartment buildings or care facilities.

Each member would be restricted to five visits per week to minimize neighborhood traffic.

Gardens would be allowed only to grow marijuana but could not use processing practices that involve gas, which could cause explosions.

Designated providers would have to be 18 or older. At a meeting July 14, council members discussed whether the age should be raised to 21, but no motion was made to do so.

At that meeting, McDonough said the city would not attempt proactive enforcement of the rules but would answer citizen complaints.

If approved, the ordinance could go into effect in a matter of days, at which time the city would open registration for noncommercial collective gardens.

Retail

The city’s sole retail outlet is presumed to be located at 1433 W. Sims Way and will open in September at the earliest, according to its owner, Gracen Hook, who said he is waiting until reasonably priced products are available.

The state Liquor Control Board allotted Jefferson County four retail cannabis stores: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else.

Clallam County was allowed six retail stores: two in Port Angeles, one in Sequim and three anywhere else.

The first retail pot shop to open on the North Olympic Peninsula is expected to be Sea Change Cannabis at 282332 U.S. Highway 101 in Discovery Bay.

Owner Greg Brotherton plans to open his doors at 10 a.m. Saturday.

According to rules already in place, recreational growing or processing operations within the Port Townsend city limit would first need to satisfy all state requirements.

The city requires locations to be within specific business or commercial zones, according to 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 mental health facility, a private business, within the business park was within a state-established buffer that prohibited any such enterprise.

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

Last modified: July 17. 2014 6:22PM
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