SNOHOMISH — The City Council will ask voters to weigh in before deciding whether to lift its controversial ban on recreational marijuana sales, production and processing.
At least 100 people on both sides of the issue packed the council chambers for two hours of public testimony on Tuesday evening.
Opponents urged the city leaders not to let “Snohomish go up in smoke” as a “pot smoker’s paradise.” Supporters asked the elected lawmakers to base their decision on “facts not fears.”
The council approved putting the issue on the November 2017 ballot for an advisory vote.
The 4 to 3 decision received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“I do think we should applaud now,” said Mayor Karen Guzak, after repeatedly scolding people for clapping and commenting during public comments.
Councilmen Derrick Burke, Tom Hamilton and Zach Wilde voted against waiting to decide on the ban until Snohomish voters had another chance to weigh in. The city put the prohibition on pot businesses in place in 2014, despite the fact that a majority favored creating the state’s legal marijuana system.
Guzak swayed the 2014 council vote after opponents convinced her to support keeping pot shops out of town. On Tuesday, she said, she doubts the money Snohomish would bring in from marijuana revenue would offset the potential harm. The city estimates that it would receive $30,000 a year if it allowed pot growers, retailers and processors.
“The bottom line is community values,” Guzak said. “There’s a lot of passion and heart around this issue to keep the ban.”
Christian Funk prompted the council to reconsider because he wants to open a marijuana shop in Snohomish. He said he didn’t have a problem with the city asking voters for input but pointed out that the majority of voters already made the choice to allow recreational marijuana in 2012.
City Manager Larry Bauman estimates putting the issue on the 2017 ballot will cost Snohomish up to $5,000. The ban is likely to stay in place until after the election.