County, cities work to draft rules about pot sales

It’s not clear yet where in Snohomish County you will be able to open a business to grow, process or sell marijuana.

But it will be soon.

Leaders of Snohomish County and many of its cities are drawing maps and drafting ordinances to spell out where the legal pot industry can set root in their communities.

Most are aiming to adopt rules by Nov. 18. That’s when the Washington State Liquor Control Board will begin accepting applications for licenses to own a retail store, conduct an indoor or outdoor growing operation or bake marijuana into brownies and other goods for sale.

“The code needs to be clear on what you can do and what you can’t do,” Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine said. “It needs to be clear for our citizens and for the people getting into this business.”

The timing is vital for potential entrepreneurs who must include a location on their application and want to be sure they pick a place where it is permitted.

“If we don’t have our regulations in place we could face situations where people have a state permit and we won’t be done and that would be confusing to everyone,” Snohomish County Councilman Dave Somers said.

Not every city intends to be finished next month.

Marysville won’t enact its rules until next year. In the meantime there’s a citywide moratorium on launching any pot business.

“At the end of the day we didn’t want to rush through this and be reactive to any problems we encounter,” Mayor Jon Nehring said. “We wanted to do our due diligence and consider all the impacts and let the community weigh in.”

Washington voters legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 years and older when they passed Initiative 502 last year.

The state liquor control board has spent months developing regulations covering details such as the testing of products to setting the size of growing operations, to deciding how many stores will be allowed in any community.

But the liquor control board is not looking to influence local zoning requirements beyond the initiative’s dictate that no pot business be within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, libraries, child care centers and other places frequented by children, and public transit centers.

As a result, planners are drawing bubbles around such locations on maps in each city and the county. That tells everyone what areas are off-limits.

Most communities are then figuring out where marijuana-related businesses can exist. There is the potential for friction with the state if local governments severely restrict or ban them completely, or, like Marysville not do anything for a while.

The state may proceed with issuing licenses for up to three retail stores in the city before Marysville leaders decide for certain if they will make room for them.

“This will be a little bumpy as it all shakes out,” liquor control spokesman Brian Smith said.

Mukilteo is setting the pace in Snohomish County with the City Council on course for adopting rules Oct. 21.

The city was allocated one of the state’s 334 retail stores. Marine said the council is likely to identify a commercial zone on Mukilteo Speedway near Harbour Pointe Boulevard SW as the best place for it.

The Everett City Council could act Oct. 23.

Everett was allocated five retail stores, the most of any city in the county. Council members are likely to bar stores from neighborhood commercial zones. And none are expected in the downtown core because of the many venues for youth.

Retail outlets could wind up in a commercial area in the north or southwest area of the city. But to avoid a concentration of stores, the city’s draft rules would require pot businesses be at least 2,500 feet apart, which is nearly half a mile.

Snohomish County Council members are looking to get their work done Nov. 13.

Somers said the approach thus far has been to identify broad zones where production, processing and retail sales can take place. Unlike Everett, the county is not looking to require businesses stay a certain distance apart.

One of the more interesting issues may be where retail stores open. The state allotted 16 stores for the unincorporated areas of the county.

Without a significant number of commercial areas, there could be some clustering in places like the Clearview commercial zone on Highway 9, Somers said.

“I think in the long run there will be some competition,” he said.

Marysville is not expected to take final action before next spring. By the end of the month, a committee will be set up to come up with recommendations on where pot businesses could possibly start up. This panel will include residents along with members of the planning commission and council.

Nehring expects the city will be open for pot businesses.

“I believe they absolutely will be allowed,” he said. “But I have not heard from the community at large to do this quickly.”

Edmonds is on a similar track. In August, the council enacted a six-month moratorium while it decides how to proceed.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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