Council jumpstarts cannabis store debate, changes policy language

The Lynnwood City Council during its April 22 business meeting considered a proposal to lift the city’s ban on the retail sale of cannabis and approved revisions to its rules. The council also read proclamations acknowledging Cinco de Mayo, National Day of Prayer and Small Business week. 

Commemorative photo taken in honor of Small Business week
Commemorative photo taken in honor of National Day of Prayer
Commemorative photo taken in honor of Cinco de Mayo

In a 6-1 vote with Councilmember Patrick Decker voting against, the council agreed to include a reading of the land acknowledgement as part of its regular procedures when beginning a council meeting. The land acknowledgement was updated during an April 11 council business meeting to include a more Lynnwood-centered statement, based on input and historical context from community members. 

Public commenter Jason Moore said that reading the proclamation results in “a lot of wasted time” and called the proclamation itself “divisive” and “anti-American.” 

Decker said he voted against the proposal because he had not yet received answers to his questions about the land acknowledgement. Mayor Christine Frizzell informed Decker that Equity and Social Justice Advisor Doug Raiford had been out on sick leave, which is why he had not yet responded to his questions. She reminded Decker that council had already approved the land acknowledgement itself so it wasn’t the topic of the vote– merely its reading. 

The previous land acknowledgement:

The revised land acknowledgement:

In addition, the council unanimously approved a motion by Council President George Hurst to make some language changes to the council’s remote commenting policy for clarity.

The Lynnwood City Council

In other business, the council unanimously voted to postpone a conversation about updates to the city council confirmation process because the city attorney was not able to participate in the April 22 meeting. 

Later, Hurst made a motion that the City of Lynnwood become a member of the National League of Cities (NLC). He said that the city’s legislative budget would have enough funding to finance the annual membership dues of $3,722. In previous discussions, councilmembers pointed to several benefits of NLC membership, including networking opportunities and grant location assistance. The motion to join the NLC was also unanimously approved. 

Councilmember Nick Coelho

During new business, Councilmember Nick Coelho moved to lift the city’s ban on the retail sale of cannabis in Lynnwood and direct the Lynnwood Planning Commission to review city zoning regulations as they relate to cannabis retail operations.

“I want to be clear with this motion,” Coelho said.  “This isn’t about rehashing old debates or getting stuck in the past. It’s about acknowledging that right here, right now we have a chance to move our city forward. This motion to lift the ban on cannabis retail businesses marks a significant but procedural step in aligning our policies with the evolving needs and values of Lynnwood.” Coelho asked that the council use their votes to give the city’s small businesses and entrepreneurs the ability to succeed.

Frizzell, Coelho and other councilmembers were unclear about how the ban should be lifted procedurally. Eventually, the motion was amended to instruct the planning commission to provide the council with a recommendation for how they could implement cannabis retail in city code.

Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby

Council Vice President Julieta Altamirano-Crosby said she had many questions and could not  currently support removing the ban, citing its repeated discussion and debate over the last several years.

Councilmember Patrick Decker

Decker said that the use, sale and possession of cannabis was illegal under federal law. He said that he swore an oath to uphold the constitution and federal laws and that individual cities should not be making that decision on their own. Decker added that, as a cash business, cannabis stores would have large quantities of cash on hand and would draw in more crime as a result. He concluded his statement by saying that individuals could choose to violate federal law by purchasing from dispensaries located just outside of city limits.

Councilmember Josh Binda

Councilmember Josh Binda said that he thought the “old-school mindset” of cannabis no longer aligned with the substance’s status in today’s society. He said that Coelho’s motion was a small step toward a more open-minded and informed conversation.

Hurst responded to Decker’s statement by saying that councilmembers also swore an oath to uphold state laws, and Washington’s law decrees that cannabis is legal.

Council President George Hurst

“We just had a proclamation about small businesses and that we want them to thrive in Lynnwood. Yet, Lynnwood stands out as, by itself in this region, as a city that stops these entrepreneurs from coming in,” Hurst said.

The amendment to  the motion and the motion itself both passed 4-3, with Councilmembers Shirley Sutton, George Hurst, Nick Coelho and Josh Binda in favor and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, David Parshall and Patrick Decker against.

The council also approved Tiffany Grunzel for a position on the Lynnwood Arts Commission.

— By Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

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