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Arlington passes 6-month moratorium on marijuana establishments

Paul Ellis, director of economic and community development for the city of Arlington, presents an ordinance on Nov. 4 to adopt a moratorium on the establishment of marijuana producer, processor and retailer establishments, as well as the licensing and permitting of the same, within the Arlington city limits. - Kirk Boxleitner
Paul Ellis, director of economic and community development for the city of Arlington, presents an ordinance on Nov. 4 to adopt a moratorium on the establishment of marijuana producer, processor and retailer establishments, as well as the licensing and permitting of the same, within the Arlington city limits.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council voted unanimously on Monday, Nov. 4, to approve an ordinance adopting a moratorium on the establishment of marijuana producer, processor and retailer establishments, as well as the licensing and permitting of the same. However, rather than going with city staff's initial recommendations for a three-month moratorium, the Council followed the advice of Arlington City Attorney Steve Peiffle to extend it to six months, just so they would run less risk of needing to renew the moratorium before they might reach their decision.

Paul Ellis, director of economic and community development for the city of Arlington, presented the ordinance and explained to the Council that the Washington State Liquor Control Board is in the process of completing the rules that will be imposed on marijuana producers, processors and retailers, but added that the state will begin issuing licenses to such establishments on Monday, Nov. 18, and noted that the city of Arlington has been allocated one retail establishment that could locate within its city limits."How long will it take them to finalize those rules?" Arlington City Council member Chris Raezer asked.

"They expect to be 100 percent finalized by the end of the year," Ellis said.

"How will the retail sales tax work?" fellow Council member Debora Nelson asked.

"The state will tax all three phases — production, processing and retail — and the city will have its own retail sales tax," Ellis said.

"All those taxes don't exactly encourage people to buy marijuana legally, do they?" Council member Marilyn Oertle asked hypothetically.

"It almost encourages a black market for it," fellow Council member Randy Tendering agreed.

During the City Council's Oct. 28 workshop meeting, Ellis presented the temporary moratorium as a buffer that would provide the city with more time to resolve important questions about the potential establishment of marijuana producers, processors or retailers within the Arlington city limits.

"The state is still coming out with new information and guidance on this," Ellis said on Oct. 28. "Before we can accept any such applications, we need to decide what our requirements might be for such establishments."

"What sort of permitting fee would we charge?" Nelson asked during that workshop meeting.

"I'm not sure what exactly it would be, whether it would be more or less than other businesses," Ellis said.

"What would be the zoning for those businesses?" asked Oertle, who pointed out that the city's current zoning code offers no guidance.

"Again, we still need to figure that out," said Ellis, who later acknowledged during the Nov. 4 Council meeting that a previous version of a map outlining all the zones where such establishments would not be permitted had to be revised because, for the purposes of such marijuana establishments, trails are technically not included in the proximity restrictions placed on parks systems. "We had received earlier word that marijuana producers had to be separate from marijuana processors."

Perhaps the most stridently expressed objections to the potential establishment of such marijuana businesses within the Arlington city limits was voiced by City Council member Dick Butner on Oct. 28.

"Why are we even wasting our time on this, unless we really want a pot store in town?" Butner asked. "They can sell it cheaper on the streets than a store can."

"Let's just let the Planning Commission work through the process on this," Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said.

The Revised Code of Washington requires that a public hearing be scheduled within 60 days of the date of this ordinance.

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