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Kirkland City Council considers marijuana retail regulation on Market Street

Initiative 502 was passed by Washington state voters in November 2012, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. - File Art
Initiative 502 was passed by Washington state voters in November 2012, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
— image credit: File Art

Kirkland’s Market neighborhood may not get marijuana stores after all.

The Kirkland City Council directed city staff during their Jan. 21 Council meeting to look into interim regulations for two Market Street zones that several marijuana retail license applicants have expressed interest in.

During the last two months, several, if not hundreds, of Market, Norkirk and Highlands residents have written, emailed and spoken to Council members about barring marijuana stores along the Market Street zones, Market Street Corridor (MSC) 1 and 2, for fear of how it could impact their community.

“I’m worried about a marijuana dispensary being allowed anywhere in my neighborhood,” said Sophie Larsen, a 14-year-old Market neighborhood resident who spoke at the Council meeting. “What if people try to sell marijuana to me?”

While the majority of Council members weren’t in favor of a moratorium, many felt steps should be taken to address residents’ concerns.

“I’m willing to do whatever it is,” said Deputy Mayor Penny Sweet. “I think we need more time. It’s a scary proposition, it is the future.”

Each Council member agreed to send a letter to the Washington State Liquor Control Board explaining the city’s stance on marijuana license applications and their potential Kirkland locations. The letter will be sent after the Council has taken action on the interim regulations.

“Residents of the [zones’] adjacent neighborhoods have expressed strong concerns about marijuana sales so close to the neighborhoods,” the draft letter to the Liquor Control Board states. “Kirkland Middle School is located several blocks to the east of the proposed marijuana retail sites; and although the school is not within 1,000 feet of the proposed marijuana retailers, the retailers are located along designated school walk routes.”

More than 33 applicants have filed for marijuana retail licenses using Kirkland addresses.

But whether the Council will unanimously vote on enacting an interim regulation is unclear.

“Fifty-six percent of voters voted for this. In Kirkland, it was 62 percent,” said Councilwoman Shelley Kloba. “My preference, under substantive options, is to maintain the current regulations.”

Kloba, Sweet, and Councilmen Toby Nixon and Jay Arnold agreed that redefining the MSC1 zone to exclude retail use was a good way to bypass some uncertainty of how the federal government could react to city governments enacting marijuana zoning laws and address residents’ issues. However, Councilman Dave Asher countered that keeping as much retail space in Kirkland was vital for the economy.

Ultimately, MSC1 and MSC2 zones will be analyzed by city staff for the interim ordinance, as opposed to the entire city.

The interim ordinance will be presented at the Feb. 4 Council meeting and will last for six months if the Council adopts it. During the six-month period, a final ordinance would be drafted, however, the process for which that’s adopted is yet to be determined.

Council members addressed marijuana retail, processing and producing zoning last summer but decided at the time to leave the law as it stood per the Liquor Control Board: Marijuana stores could be in retail zones as long as they were 1,000 feet away from schools, parks and other public places children might be, among other requirements and restrictions.

I-502 was passed by Washington voters in November 2012, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.

“I don’t use marijuana, I teach people not to use it but I was a strong supporter of I-502, nevertheless,” said Nixon at the Jan. 21 Council meeting. “And that’s because I agree with the initiative sponsors that the negative impacts of marijuana prohibition on our community are worse than the negative impacts of marijuana use in our community.

“I really want to see implementation of I-502 succeed so that we can as quickly as possible get away from those negative impacts of prohibition. The problem is that implementation will fail if we make possession and use legal but it becomes impossible for people to purchase marijuana legally.”

For more information on I-502, visit liq.wa.gov. For information on marijuana stores in Kirkland, visit www.kirklandwa.gov/depart/planning/I502.htm.

 

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