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Kirkland Council votes to keep state marijuana business zone laws, no additional regulations

City of Kirkland - Contributed
City of Kirkland
— image credit: Contributed

While some cities, such as Kent, have voted to completely ban recreational marijuana businesses that sell, process or produce the drug, the Kirkland City Council voted Aug. 6 to keep with current city zones and comply with the rules under Initiative-502.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board was directed under the initiative to come up with a set of rules for these businesses, similar to those for liquor stores. Business owners will be able to apply for licenses on Nov. 18. The rules will likely go into effect soon after, which will outline when, where and how a marijuana business can operate.

Currently, licenses for marijuana operations and sales can only be issued for stores and manufacturing located 1,000 feet from elementary or secondary schools, playgrounds, child care centers, public parks, public transit centers, libraries or any game arcade where minors are allowed.

But Washington cities were given an opportunity to impose additional regulations, such as limiting the hours of operations or banning drive-thru’s, by early September. The Council recently voted 5-2 to stay with state law with the mindset that zoning laws could be altered in the future if problems arose.

“The Council absolutely understands that we can make different decisions as time goes by,” said Mayor Joan McBride, who voted in favor of more regulations. “I do think the liquor board was very thoughtful, the Council had a good debate.”

Based on the 1,000-feet rule, only very limited spaces are available for marijuana sales in Kirkland. These include the following areas: limited areas in the Totem Lake Business District on the west side of the I-405 and Northeast 124th Street interchange; the Rose Hill business district along Northeast 85th Street near I-405; the Market Street Corridor Business District located between Fifth Street West and 14th Avenue West, and a surrounding office zone; the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Sixth Street of the Central Business District; and a small portion of the Carillon Point area.

There are two zones where marijuana processing and productions would be allowed - one small one in the Norkirk neighborhood and a larger area on the far east side of the Totem Lake industrial zone near unincorporated King County.

“This is a changing landscape,” said city planning director Eric Shields. “If somebody comes in and locates a daycare in an area that didn’t have one before, that suddenly puts a new prohibition on marijuana sales in that area.”

However, City Manager Kurt Triplett noted at the Aug. 6 council meeting that if a marijuana business went in and then a daycare set up their establishment within the 1,000 feet, the marijuana business would not be pushed out.

Other Liquor Control Board rules include an outlaw on home occupational marijuana businesses, a limit on retail advertisements to about 11 square feet, licenses will not be issued to people with extensive criminal backgrounds, marijuana may not be consumed on the premises and businesses must operate between 8 a.m. and 12 a.m. Stores and manufacturing offices need alarms, surveillance cameras and liability insurance, as well.

Council members Toby Nixon, Penny Sweet, Dave Asher, Shelley Kloba and Deputy Mayor Doreen Marchione voted against additional regulations, while Mayor McBride and Councilwoman Amy Walen thought a limit on hours of operation and no drive-thru’s would be wise for a community in “uncharted territory.”

“I just like the idea of people pausing a moment before they make a decision in regard to liquor or marijuana,” said McBride. “Although I’m completely supportive of the legalization of marijuana, it was long overdue.”

McBride said she stands by the council’s decision but her own personal concerns come from a public health standpoint and she thought rules should somewhat mirror what was in place for state liquor stores.

But Nixon, speaking from his own perspective, said he doesn’t think any of the ideas for additional regulations are necessary and that the limitations within current zoning code and I-502 rules are sufficient to move forward to see how well the system works.

“I do very much appreciate staff making council aware of these policy alternatives, and clearly there were some Council members who thought some of them would be good ideas, but I didn’t agree,” Nixon said in an email.

Some alternative ideas included: a limit on the number of plants or ounces of marijuana in certain zones, maximum floor area limits, prohibition on drive-thru facilities, a limit on hours of operation and a prohibition on locating directly next to a low density zone.

Nixon also raised concerns of how state law would conflict with federal law.

“While I sincerely hope the federal government will just stay out of it, I think it wise, at least initially while we see what [the Department of Justice] intends to do, to avoid putting city employees in the position of specifically authorizing the opening of a marijuana store under city codes that specifically address marijuana stores,” Nixon said. “I think there’s less risk if they are simply issuing a permit for a retail store or drug store, period, without reference in the permit to what the store will sell.”

He said the burden would then fall to the Liquor Control Board to enforce the provisions under I-502 rather than city staff - which would be the case if additional limitations were enacted on a city level.

“I think this concern needs to be taken into consideration, should additional limitations be reconsidered in the future,” he said.

Shields stressed that just because these zones would be available for marijuana stores, does not mean that many would start popping up once licenses were issued.

“My thought is that it’s very unlikely a business will be attracted to these spaces, but I don’t know,” Shields said, noting high rent to be a factor.

McBride assumes there will be these marijuana businesses in Kirkland in part because the state law passed by a huge amount.

“I gather there are customers in Kirkland,” she said. “Where there is a demand, there will be businesses but I don’t think there will be a lot.”

The council unanimously agreed on alerting the Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods of these changes. Neighborhood leaders were sent an email by Shields and neighborhood outreach coordinator Kari Page with more information on the zones and rules for marijuana stores.

The Liquor Control Board will start accepting business license applications for marijuana sales, production and processing on Nov. 18. Each applicant will go through a process in which the Liquor Control Board will forward license applications to each local jurisdiction that will allow a 20-day opportunity to submit comments.

For more information on the Liquor Control Board I-502 rules, visit http://lcb.wa.gov/marijuana/proposed-rules.

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