Up to 35 legal marijuana retail stores could open up in Snohomish County according to proposed supplemental rules approved for filing by the Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Initiative 502, legalizing recreational marijuana use by adults, was passed by voters last November and the board was given the authority to set limits on the number of marijuana retail outlets.
Using population data as well as adult consumption data supplied by the state's marijuana consultant — BOTEC Analysis Corporation — the WSLCB allocated a maximum of 334 outlets statewide, according to a WSLCB release. The most populous cities within the county are allocated a proportionate number of stores and at-large stores available to serve other areas of the county.
Marysville is the second largest city in Snohomish County, with a population of more than 60,000, and is set to allow three stores. Arlington, with a population just under 18,000 is allocated one retail outlet. Everett is allotted five stores, while unincorporated Snohomish County is set to allow 16.
"We are following this announcement and we had our city attorney attend the hearings that the Liquor Control Board had locally," said Gloria Hirashima, Marysville's chief administrative officer. "We are going to absorb all the information that is coming out at the moment. The city is considering a moratorium, in large part to process all this information and identify what an appropriate response is. There has been a lot of information, considering the federal response issued a few days ago."
On Aug. 30, the Justice Department said it wouldn't be challenging Washington's laws on legal marijuana and would focus on large-scale drug trafficking, drugged driving and keeping children away from the drug.
"We were glad to get some sort of response from the federal government," said Hirashima. "They won't pursue it. Their view is that it is still illegal but they have more important priorities. It's not truly definitive — it would take a change in federal stance to make it definitive. But at least it's something."
The city of Marysville is keeping a close eye on the developing rules and will focus on making a decision after they have as much information as possible.
"We are watching to see what happens with the rules," said Hirashima. "We did some mapping with the prohibitions of retail establishments and what that looks like for Marysville. We are trying to establish what the city's position is going to be on these retail outlets and how they locate them. In terms of when we determine final regulations, it will likely be after the WSLCB holds the new hearings."
Marysville hosted a moratorium hearing on Sept. 9 at 7 p.m., though it was after our press deadline.
"It will not establish final rules, the intent of the moratorium is to establish regulations," said Hirashima, who noted that Marysville is interacting with other cities on how best to respond.
"We are monitoring how Everett is responding, because Everett has already started a process in terms of these regulations," said Hirashima. "Every city is dealing with the same thing and there are a lot of comparisons being made between cities in terms of how to approach this. We are consulting other cities and monitoring the activities of cities in this area."
Stores are required to be at least 1,000 feet from an elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library or arcade where admission is not restricted to those age 21 and older.
The WSLCB will host public hearings on the proposed rules on Wednesday, Oct. 9, with times and locations to be posted on their website at www.liq.wa.gov. On Wednesday, Oct. 16, the board will adopt or reject the new rules and if adopted, they will become effective on Nov. 16. For more information on the moratorium or the city's updated response, visit www.marysvillewa.gov.