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Kent has no plans to remove recreational marijuana ban despite federal ruling
The city of Kent's ban against recreational marijuana businesses won't go up in smoke despite the federal government's stance last week to allow the state to implement its voter-approved recreational marijuana law.
"This has no real impact on Kent," said Tom Brubaker, interim city chief administrative officer, in an email. "The City Council has zoning regulations in place that prohibit the 'point of distribution centers' for medical marijuana and also prohibit the manufacturing, distribution, and retail sale of marijuana under Initiative 502.
"The City Council has determined that these uses will not be allowed, and that shall remain the city’s course until otherwise directed by the council."
Council President Dennis Higgins would like to see the city lift its ban. But he said he doesn't have the support of a council majority to dump the ban.
"Unless one of my colleagues changes their mind now with the federal stance we're still in the situation where there will not be any amendments to the code to allow them to come in," Higgins said during a phone interview.
The council banned medical marijuana collective gardens with a 4-3 vote in June 2012 because it believes the businesses violate federal law that lists marijuana as an illegal drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The council upheld that view two months ago when told by city staff that the medical marijuana ban also will result in a ban against recreational marijuana businesses.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a statement Aug. 29 that the Department of Justice updated its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing and sale.
"I think he's doing the right thing," Higgins said about Holder's statement. "I was pleased with their approach that it's up to the state to be responsible and make it work and I think they will - not that it makes any difference in Kent."
Higgins wished the city would zone to allow marijuana businesses, similar to what other cities are doing or have done, including Seattle and Kirkland.
"We'll have all the costs of having the bad actors - the criminal activity with marijuana - and not get any benefit from the good actors such as the cities that are zoning and that is too bad," Higgins said.
Council members Les Thomas, Bill Boyce, Deborah Ranniger and Dana Ralph voted for the medical marijuana ban. Higgins, Elizabeth Albertson and Jamie Perry were against the ban.
Boyce said during a phone interview Tuesday that he still supports the city's ban against marijuana businesses. He said that might change next year after he sees how I-502 works in other cities.
"I want to see how it works first," Boyce said. "Kent doesn't have to be the first one. Let's see how it goes in other cities. The (federal statement) opened the door a little bit but there are still a lot of things that are not clear."
The State Liquor Control Boards oversees the implementation of I-502 and plans to start issuing producer, processor and retail licenses to qualified applicants in December. The first stores are expected to open in June 2014.