Port Townsend Planning Commission approves reduction of buffer zones around marijuana retailers

The City Council will receive a briefing on the plan at today’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 540 Water St.

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend Planning Commission has approved a plan to reduce certain buffer zones around marijuana retailers in accordance with a new state law.

The new regulation will be presented to the City Council in early November for final approval, and the council will receive a briefing on the reduction at today’s meeting at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, 540 Water St.

According to John McDonagh, a senior planner for the city, the state has decided that buffer zones around certain protected areas can be reduced from 1,000 feet to 100 feet.

Protected areas, according to state law, are elementary and secondary schools, playgrounds, recreational centers, child care centers, public parks, transit centers, libraries and arcades.

The new law allows municipalities to shrink the buffer zones around recreational centers, public parks, transit centers, libraries, arcades and child care centers. However, the 1,000-foot buffer zone is still required around schools and playgrounds.

According to McDonagh, this isn’t a huge change for Port Townsend because there aren’t any arcades or state-sanctioned child care facilities within the city limits.

However, the smaller buffer zones will make life easier for the area’s growing marijuana market.

“State law allows us to reduce buffers, so the planning commission is recommending to the City Council that we reduce them,” said McDonagh. “It expands the available land that has already been zoned for marijuana processing and retail.”

There is only one recreational marijuana retailer in Port Townsend now with Reefer Den on West Sims Way. However the city already has permission from the state liquor board to have two retailers within city limits.

“With these buffers lifted, I would expect another shop to come in here shortly,” said McDonagh.

The buffer zones around marijuana retailers haven’t changed since legalization laws took effect in 2014.

The zones were re-evaluated by the state this year, along with the merging of the medical and recreational marijuana markets.

Port Townsend adopted the market merger in April, and the planning commission took on the buffer zones shortly after that.

The new buffer zones still need to be accepted by the City Council before they will be implemented in the city.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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