The Edmonds City Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to make Edmonds’ Highway 99 area the location for the two licensed retail marijuana stores that the State of Washington has allocated to the City of Edmonds. Highway 99 is also where any state-approved facilities for growing or processing pot in Edmonds will be located.
The vote — Councilmembers Diane Buckshnis, Lora Petso, Thomas Mesaros and Joan Bloom supporting – followed significant discussion about trying to distribute the two retail outlets in various parts of town. But under the requirements of Initiative 502, which legalized the sale of marijuana in Washington state for adult use, any pot businesses must comply with 1,000-foot buffers required between them and parks, arcades, child care and recreation centers, schools and transit centers.
And given the relatively small number of businesses in Edmonds, “you have very few (business) zones that are not covered by a buffer,” Planning Manager Rob Chave told the council.
The Lynnwood City Council currently is in the process of deciding how to deal with retail marijuana store. At a work session earlier this month, a clear majority of Councilmembers expressed interest in prohibiting retail marijuana stores within the city limits. The city’s current moratorium on recreation marijuana businesses is set to expire in a couple of months.
The Edmonds City Council had before it three possible ordinances covering pot retail locations. The first, recommended to the council by the Edmonds Planning Board, in theory would have made more locations in Edmonds open to pot businesses — essentially in most of the city’s commercial zones — although it’s unclear once the buffers were applied how much of that space would be available. The second ordinance — the one approved by the council — limits pot retailers “to the larger, more visible commercial zones,” which specifically eliminates two small business zones from consideration: One along 100th Avenue West (the tiny strip of land where Grounded Espresso sits) and the other on Puget Drive in the area of the Olympic View Deli. As with the first ordinance, under ordinance two it would be unlikely after buffers are applied that neighborhoods outside of Highway 99 would be eligible, unless one of the restricted uses — an existing daycare or school, for example, closed its doors or moved to a new location, Chave said.
The third ordinance would have restricted retail locations to Highway 99 only.
The pot issue served to further highlight the current and future state of the Edmonds stretch of Highway 99, which was also brought up in other council discussions Tuesday night. In a joint discussion with the planning board that took up about 45 minutes of the meeting, the council agreed that addressing Highway 99 development was a priority. Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas — the only councilmember to live in the Highway 99 neighborhood — said that she had recently spent an evening riding along with Edmonds police as they patrolled Highway 99, and she was alarmed by the increasing amount of illegal activity found there.
Fraley-Monillas said she was hopeful that adding mixed-use development that included residential to Highway 99 would change the character of the area. Later, during the marijuana zoning discussion, the second-term councilmember said that restricting pot operations to Highway 99 “is a prime example of pushing off potentially not wanted things into the 99 area, which creates more of the issues that we’re seeing.”
Councilmember Lora Petso, a supporter of the ordinance that passed, said that while she understood Fraley-Monillas’ concerns about Highway 99, it was a better option that allowing pot shops “in some of these little tiny, tiny business districts that are essentially neighborhood areas.”
In voting against the ordinance, Fraley-Monillas countered that Highway 99 was also a neighborhood.
Councilmember Strom Peterson also expressed his opposition to the second ordinance, offering the view that retail pot shops should be integrated into the community, which would have been more likely under the first ordinance, rather than being hidden from it,
“My concern with supporting this (ordinance two) is the more that we as a society separate this new legal business and we treat it differently than we do other accepted adult vices…I think we just add to the stigma,” he said. “Part of I-502 and its rather overwhelming victory I think is trying to combat that stigma. I don’t want to parse it out so we are allowing it here and here, and — I think to Ms. Fraley-Monillas’ point — just want to shove it over to one part of town to cover our eyes.”
After deciding where the pot businesses would be located, the council also voted unanimously to approve the process for city licensing of retail marijuana operations, which will be treated similarly to the way the city issues liquor licenses.
As for next steps in the pot licensing process, the Washington State Liquor Control Board will hold a lottery this week to select the apparent successful applicants for marijuana retail licenses. The liquor control board is expected to post the ordered list of applicants for each jurisdiction in the public records section of the agency website on May 2, and predicts it will begin issuing retail licenses no later than the first week of July.
The current license applicant spreadsheet shows that six producers, four processors, and 17 retail outlets have applied for licenses in Edmonds. The state notes that background checks still must be conducted on all applicants, and that the “pending” column indicates only that the application is in the pool.