By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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Community Development Department Director Sheila Roark Miller requested that the state conduct a hearing to consider reversing its decision that the Klahhane Gymnastic Studio’s proximity to the proposed Hidden Bush marijuana store at 2840 E. U.S. Highway 101 does not preclude the shop from opening.
State officials July 14 ruled the gymnastics studio at 3318 E. Acorn Lane did not fit the state’s definition of a recreation center.
“We have our process, and the local authority certainly has the opportunity to comment and enter their objections,” said Mikhael Carpenter, spokesman for the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the agency charged with regulating legal marijuana.
“However, if the gymnastics studio doesn’t fit the exclusionary zone, there’s really not a whole lot they can do.”
Under the rules established for the state’s new recreational marijuana industry, made legal by the November 2012 passage of Initiative 502, pot shops are not allowed within 1,000 feet of a school, park or other areas where children congregate.
“Klahhane Gymnastics is a recreational facility designed exclusively for persons under the age of 21,” Roark Miller wrote.
In her appeal to the state, Roark Miller said allowing the Hidden Bush to open near the gymnastics studio could “potentially jeopardize Washington’s system by inviting federal scrutiny for failing to limit youth access to marijuana.”
Because the Hidden Bush is on land zoned urban regional commercial, it did not need any permits from the county.
Under rules established this spring, the county required growers and processors who want to site facilities in land zoned anything other than industrial obtain conditional-use permits.
Retail shops, like the Hidden Bush, are allowed without a permit in commercial areas as any other retail business would be.
No state process
Carpenter said the liquor board does not have a process in place to allow for hearings like that requested by Roark Miller.
“Yeah, I don’t think we do any hearings like that,” he said.
“If we issued them a license, we’ve determined they’re within the rules.”
The Hidden Bush, one of three shops drawn in a lottery for first consideration in unincorporated Clallam County, doesn’t have a license.
“We’re still waiting to hear when they’ll come in and do our inspection,” said Hidden Bush owner Heather Owen. “So I really have no idea when we’ll be able to open.
“I hope it’s later this month.”
Owen said her attorney has been told by the state that the gymnastics studio wouldn’t impact her business.
Shops are required to check the identifications of pot buyers, who must be at least 21.
Also drawn in the lottery were High Grade Organics, 100 LaPush Road, Suite 602, Forks; and Weed-R-Us, 2941 E. U.S. Highway 101, Port Angeles.
Two more licenses are allowed for shops in Port Angeles and one more in Sequim, which has a moratorium.
Jefferson County was allowed four licenses for retail stores: one in Port Townsend and three anywhere else.
So far, the only North Olympic Peninsula pot shop to open its doors is Sea Change Cannabis in Discovery Bay.
A lack of available marijuana, however, has limited Sea Change’s ability to keep regular hours.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.