EVERETT — There could be a few more places to buy weed.
The Everett City Council’s Public Safety Subcommittee backed a proposal Dec. 11 to allow up to eight retail cannabis locations — three more than the current limit. The City Council will decide, possibly in January, whether that’s the right direction for the city.
Three prospective businesses have state licenses but can’t open unless the city raises the lid. Meanwhile, the city is looking for more revenue to cover a budget deficit. Marijuana is taxed by the state, and some of that tax revenue goes to local governments.
Currently, a city ordinance caps pot shops at five. It was enacted as a precaution in 2016 after the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board doubled the number of state licenses available in Everett to 10.
After months of discussion this year, the public safety subcommittee became convinced that marijuana stores are not an excessive burden on police.
“I’m pretty sure there’s no public safety concern,” Councilmember Brenda Stonecipher said.
A 2018 Everett Police Department report found that the five cannabis stores accounted for 168 calls for service in 2016. The number decreased slightly the next year to 159.
As a comparison, calls for service at a few convenience stores were almost three times as high in 2016 and more than four times higher in 2017, according to the report.
The number of police calls varied by cannabis store. Three stores generated about the same average number of 911 calls received from bars and taverns — about one or less per month, said Lyle Ryan, chief of staff to the mayor. Police calls to the other two were higher, at 4.8 and 3.7 per month, respectively. One of those later closed after being caught up in a fraudulent loan scheme.
Retail cannabis generates major revenue, with more than $1.04 billion in sales statewide from July 2018 to June 2019, according to data from the Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Excise tax revenue from cannabis in Snohomish County during that same period totaled more than $41 million.
The tax on cannabis sales netted $208,355 for the City of Everett in 2018.
There are at least 40 retail marijuana stores in Snohomish County. Two shops are just outside of Everett, in unincorporated Snohomish County, and are not subject to the city’s limit of five retailers.
Besides regulating their number, the city restricts where such shops can open. Marijuana retailers may not locate within 1,000 feet of an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child-care center, public park, public transit center or public library.
Combined with the city’s required 2,500-foot buffer between cannabis retailers, there are only a few possible locations for new stores.
For example, in the Lowell neighborhood, Everett Planning Director Allan Giffen said, there is only one site along South Second Avenue where a marijuana store could open. Other options are along Evergreen Way south of Madison Street.
To ease the ability for new stores to open, the City Council could reduce buffers or other zoning restrictions.