As regulators take on medical pot, Everett eyes a moratorium

EVERETT — Four recreational marijuana stores have opened in the city since legalization, and a fifth is in the permitting stages.

That would be the maximum number of retail outlets permitted in Everett under state law.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board, however, is seeking to integrate the heretofore unregulated medical marijuana industry. It wants a regulatory structure similar to the one governing recreational pot shops. One possible outcome of that would be a higher cap on the number of retailers allowed per community.

The new rules aren’t in effect yet, but Everett isn’t taking any chances. The City Council on Wednesday will take up a measure to put a moratorium on all new “weed-tailers” in an attempt to get in front of the issue before they get caught by surprise again.

“The other thing is that Everett has done its part, while other municipalities have outright banned them,” said Councilman Scott Bader, who requested the moratorium from city staff.

“I don’t want to see Everett become the place where all these (stores) congregate while other municipalities don’t take their fair share,” Bader said.

The moratorium is coming in the form of an emergency ordinance. The council will condense all three of its customary readings of the ordinance, usually spread out over several weeks, plus a public hearing, into one meeting.

If approved, the ordinance will take effect immediately after the mayor signs it.

The text of the new rules spells out the legal reasoning for moving fast: “This Ordinance must take effect immediately to prevent the establishment of vested rights that could be incompatible with the plans, policies and regulations ultimately adopted.”

The measure also would apply to cooperatives that have been used to grow marijuana for existing medical dispensaries, which the state is trying to merge into the recreational market. Everett doesn’t have any medical pot shops or cooperatives.

The proposed state rules would allow up to 10 retailers in Everett, twice as many as is currently allowed, city planning director Allan Giffen said.

The moratorium would last for a year, giving the city time to study the effects existing pot shops have had on the crime and the neighborhoods they are located in since they started opening in 2014.

If the city wanted to extend the emergency moratorium, they would be required to hold another public hearing. But it’s likely one year will be enough for the city to settle on a new direction, whatever that turns out to be, Giffen said.

The emergency ordinance requires an affirmative vote of five council members, rather than a simple majority of the members present.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

Public hearing

The Everett City Council plans a public hearing on an emergency ordinance to prevent more marijuana retailers from opening. The hearing is scheduled during the council’s regular meeting at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, in City Council Chambers, William E. Moore Historic City Hall building, 3002 Wetmore Ave.

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