Bud’s Garage in Everett is one of five cannabis stores in the city. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Bud’s Garage in Everett is one of five cannabis stores in the city. (Sue Misao / Herald file)

Everett to consider allowing three more pot shops in city

After months of economic, planning and public safety review, the city council could vote next month.

EVERETT — Within a few weeks, the city could allow three more retail cannabis stores.

The Everett City Council on Wednesday will take up the issue of letting up to eight pots shops sell bud, edibles, joints, oil and vapes. If passed, the new stores would need to have the medical marijuana endorsement.

An old ordinance, passed in response to the state allowing up to 10 retail cannabis licenses in Everett, capped them at five.

Now, three title certificate holders are waiting on city leaders to let them do business in Everett.

“We just want to get something passed that allows them to operate,” said Josh Estes of Pacific Northwest Regional Strategies, which represents weed retailer Kushman’s and another license holder. “The three that have been waiting have not challenged the system.”

Last year, the city council’s public safety subcommittee reviewed that limit with an eye on expansion. It found that existing stores don’t disproportionately require police responses, especially compared to bars and convenience stores.

Everett has struggled with expenses outpacing revenue, especially from sales tax as retail spending declined and cities were capped at raising property taxes 1% without a public vote. A possible budget boost is from the cannabis industry, which totaled over $534 million in statewide sales in 2018, according to Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board data. That year, the state collected over $120 million in excise tax.

In Snohomish County between July 2018 and June 2019, cannabis accounted for $110 million in sales, with $41 million in taxes.

Beyond the tax revenue and owner profits, Estes said his clients are active in the community. They gave money during the pandemic for food and bought masks for the Department of Emergency Management and ChildStrive, which supports children, caregivers and parents in Snohomish County, Estes said.

“These potential business owners are rooted, invested and want to be within the lines. … They’re not absentee owners,” he said.

The council also could reduce the existing 2,500-foot buffer between retail cannabis stores to just 500 feet. That would make it easier for new stores, which already are bound by state law that pushes them away from parks and schools.

Estes said his clients prefer the existing buffer because it prevents “clustering” of pot shops, improves access if stores are spread across the city and protects existing weed businesses.

“While it does reduce the options for stock, there are options,” he said of commercial real estate.

In February, a flyer and mailer was sent around Everett urging people to oppose the increase. There was no name attached to it, and messages from The Daily Herald to a listed website’s “Leave a message” form were not returned.

Once the coronavirus pandemic began, the city council delayed the vote.

The Everett City Council meeting, which can be joined via phone or video Wednesday, is scheduled for 12:30 p.m., but the vote is set for Oct. 14.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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