Clallam Planning Commission supports prohibition of pot sales in Joyce

PORT ANGELES — A two-thirds majority of the Clallam County Planning Commission has backed a proposal to restrict marijuana sales in Joyce.

The commission voted 6-3 Wednesday to recommend that county commissioners adopt a revised ordinance that would prohibit the sale of legalized cannabis within the Joyce Urban Growth Area.

“This community has prided itself in being a drug-free zone,” said Joyce resident Connie Beauvais, Planning Commission vice chair and a Port of Port Angeles commissioner.

The three commissioners will consider approving the ordinance after a yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing, likely in September.

Planning Commission members who supported the recommendation were Beauvais, Tom Montgomery, Robert Miller, Leo Leonard, Jane Hielman and Steve Gale.

Scott Clausen, Gary Gleason and Chairwoman Nancy Esteb voted no.

“I know that the drug problem in your community is not marijuana,” Esteb told seven Joyce residents who testified in favor of the proposal.

“It’s alcohol, heroin and meth. This won’t solve that problem.”

The marijuana prohibition was sought by the Crescent Community Advisory Council in an August 2016 letter to county officials.

No speakers testified against the ordinance Wednesday.

State voters legalized the possession and sale of up to 1 ounce of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in November 2012.

Clallam County, which adopted a marijuana ordinance in 2015, is home to several pot shops in the Port Angeles, Sequim and Forks areas.

There are no retail marijuana stores or pending applications for a retail store in the Joyce Urban Growth Area, Principal Planner Kevin LoPiccolo said.

“We’re not stopping something that is already happening,” Beauvais said. “It’s not happening now.”

The Joyce UGA is a 1.7-mile strip of land that traces state Highway 112 from roughly Miller Road to Shire Lane. The unincorporated urban center includes about 90 parcels, county officials said.

In a survey taken at the Joyce Daze Wild Blackberry Festival in 2015, the Crescent Community Advisory Council asked Joyce residents to list their primary concern.

Survey respondents said their top concern was drug use — not necessarily marijuana use — and the impacts that drugs have on the community.

Tuesday Mattix, coordinator of the Crescent United Coalition, said Crescent School is the “heart of our community, and our kids are our No. 1 concern.”

The Crescent United Coalition works to prevent substance abuse among youths.

“The main risk factors for youth using marijuana in our community are easy access, low perception of harm and favorable attitudes among the youth,” Mattix said.

“By allowing retail sale of marijuana in our community, these risk factors will be drastically increased. This would work against the progress the coalition has made in lowering these specific risk factors.”

Dara Peppard read a letter on behalf of her 12-year-old daughter, Bay Peppard, who was too shy to speak from the podium.

“I think marijuana should not be sold in Joyce because it would be easier for parents and youth to get it,” Bay Peppard wrote.

“Parents smoking around youth and youth smoking it in general leads to bad health, second-hand smoke, poor choices and bad habits.”

Dara Peppard added: “But by not selling it, it sends a positive message.”

State law prohibits marijuana sales within 1,000 feet of a school zone.

The ordinance amendment was vetted by the county Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and supported by the Department of Community Development, LoPiccolo said.

It includes minor text updates to be consistent with current state law.

Montgomery, who voted with the majority of the Planning Commission, said the state law includes a “local option” for communities.

“There’s nothing more local than the community of Joyce,” Montgomery said, “and I’ve been very favorably impressed with the testimony that’s been offered tonight and the testimony that we’ve heard in previous meetings.”

Dissenting members of the Planning Commission questioned whether a marijuana prohibition would curb the drug problem in Joyce.

“I think it’s a solution looking for a problem,” Clausen said of the proposal.

“It’s a feel-good attempt at doing something. It’s not going to do a darn thing to those that want to get pot.

“The problem in Joyce is not pot,” Clausen added.

“The problem is the opioids, and I don’t see anything being done about that.”

Clausen and Esteb questioned the validity of the survey that led to the Crescent Community Advisory Council’s request.

“I have a healthy suspicion of surveys,” said Esteb, an ex-academic sociologist who taught survey method research.

“Unless you have a scientifically based sample, your survey probably doesn’t mean very much.”

Terry Barnett, vice chair of the Crescent Community Advisory Council, said the request to prohibit marijuana sales in Joyce was made “after surveys and talking with neighbors.”

“This is what the Joyce people are wanting,” Barnett said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.

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