Council members voted 6-1 in favor of increasing the number of retail cannabis stores from five to eight. The ordinance requires the stores to be separated by at least 2,500 feet, and any new ones must have a medical marijuana endorsement. Councilmember Scott Bader was the lone no vote.
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board, which sets the maximum number of marijuana licenses allowed in a municipality, has authorized Everett for up to 10. Local jurisdictions may impose stricter limits.
A handful of people during a public comment period spoke in favor of the ordinance. Jay Hix Jones, an Everett resident and a TV writer who has worked on shows like “Ice Road Truckers” and “Hoarders,” said cannabis made a profound difference in his daughter’s fight with cancer.
“It literally replaced almost all of the addictive narcotics,” said Jones, who also wrote about his family’s experience for Seattle Children’s hospital. “Her appetite came back, and it calmed her nerves during some really unnerving times. … I credit cannabis just as much as the traditional medicines for helping save my daughter’s life.”
Brenda Stonecipher, chair of the public safety subcommittee, said council members consulted the Everett Police Department ahead of the vote. According to numbers provided by police, cannabis stores had either equal to or fewer calls than similar retail outlets that sold controlled substances, such as alcohol. It was a number that surprised at least one council member.
“It might not be an apples-to-apples comparison,” Stonecipher said, but “in the end, the calls for services was not a compelling issue for cannabis stores.”
She also noted that cannabis use among juveniles has decreased somewhat over the past decade, according to surveys. She credited the legalization and regulation of the drug for the drop, claiming it helped push the black market out of business. According to the Liquor and Cannabis Board, cannabis retailers also did a better job than liquor stores in not selling to under-age customers, Stonecipher said.
Council members approving of the legislation argued that allowing more stores means better access not only for recreational customers but for those who need it for health reasons, as well. The increased cap of eight locations would also result in some healthy competition among businesses, Councilmember Scott Murphy said.
He and Stonecipher agreed the current setup allowed a few businesses to have unfettered control of the market in Everett.
Stonecipher said the benefits were made clear as current cannabis retailers lobbied against allowing more stores. She believes a local cannabis store was behind a mailer opposing the increased cap that was sent out last February. The mailer didn’t provide any information on who was behind it or who paid for it.
At least one current cannabis business supports letting more stores open in the city. During public comment, Kushman’s general manager Kristina Franklin said the only reason her business was able to open in Everett was because Mari J’s Highway Pot Shop closed down after encountering some legal challenges.
“Like us, these stores deserve a chance,” Franklin said.
Bader, who voted against the amended ordinance, said he worried about Everett’s image from adding more stores. Including those just outside the city limits, he said, half the cannabis shops in Snohomish County would have an Everett address, while other cities have yet to allow any.
He said he’d like to see other cities move forward with allowing cannabis shops before letting more open in Everett.
“I think it says a lot those jurisdictions haven’t acted,” Bader said. “I think it says a lot about marijuana itself that it is not seen as something just like liquor.”
Councilmember Liz Vogeli noted that discussion about reversing the moratorium in Lynnwood has begun. At a Sept. 14 meeting, Lynnwood Councilmember George Hurst said there were two potential applicants who have been waiting for five years to open a shop in the city — and that it was time to let them.