Lynnwood City Council votes to ban recreational and medical marijuana operations

great dealThe Lynnwood City Council voted 5-2 to approve a ban on recreational and medical marijuana retail operations during Monday’s business meeting.

Council President Loren Simmons, Vice-President Ian Cotton and Councilmembers Van AuBuchon, Sid Roberts and Benjamin Goodwin voted for the ban, while Councilmembers M. Christopher Boyer and Ruth Ross opposed the ban.

Court rulings have given cities the authority to prohibit marijuana operations. A state Supreme Court decision in May upheld Kent’s right to ban medical marijuana operations. Five other court rulings have affirmed that local governments have the right to regulate or ban marijuana business in spite of the passage of Initiative 502, which legalized marijuana.

For Cotton, the issue of managing the City’s resources was a major reason for his support of the ban. The lack of revenue sharing from the state regarding taxes coupled with the potential burden of City services related to marijuana businesses didn’t make financial sense to Cotton.

“We don’t get any of the revenues,” Cotton said. “The increased burden on our City’s resources is not being supplemented at all by the revenue that is being generated.”

Other reasons Cotton cited for his support of the ban included a desire to protect single family residences as stated in the City’s Comp Plan. Cotton was concerned about how commercial marijuana operations are massive consumers of energy. Cotton recently drove on Highway 99 and noticed the numerous marijuana shops. He was not impressed with the kind of storefront presentations and developments he saw.

Goodwin also based his decision on a cost benefit analysis and came to the same conclusion as Cotton that “there is right now for us no benefit to having marijuana retail shops come to Lynnwood. We’ll get no tax revenue and what good will come from that? What good is it going to do for our community is the question I bring to you. There will be no good that comes from it, especially if we don’t have tax revenue to help alleviate the issues that will come along.”

Goodwin concluded that “in all the discussions there is nothing that showed me that the benefits of allowing retail shops will outweigh the costs to the City, to the community.”

Simmonds said that the discussions on every ordinance that is considered by the Council revolve around the benefits to the community’s health, safety and general welfare that are going to be promoted. Simmonds did not see any of that, so he supported the ban.

Roberts liked that the prohibition on recreational and medical marijuana businesses is not permanent in that future City Councils can revisit the issue and change the law.

Boyer said that he wrestled with the issue, going back and forth. He made it clear that the use of marijuana by minors is dangerous as was noted earlier by a citizen during the Public Hearing on the issue. But after researching the issue, Boyer said that “there are a number of things that we, as a society, at least tacitly approve of that are equally if not more so dangerous to children.”

The National Institutes of Health report that the number of adolescents who use marijuana and alcohol and who become addicted are the same and that twice the number become addicted to tobacco, Boyer said. The number of emergency room visits related to alcohol abuse is about six times higher than those for marijuana use. The number of teens entering treatment for alcohol is more than double than that for marijuana

Yet, people can walk into a grocery store and purchase alcohol and tobacco, Boyer said. If we are going to get serious about eliminating the risks to our children, Boyer added, we should first eliminate tobacco products and alcohol sales in Lynnwood.

“But really, do we think we’re going to ban tobacco and alcohol in Lynnwood?” Boyer said. “The federal government tried the second of those and it didn’t work.”

The issue of justice also played into Boyer’s decision. He talked about about a recent study that alleged that federal drug policies are aimed almost entirely at people of color and that the drug laws are victimizing communities of color. He wasn’t willing to make the connection that banning retail sales of marijuana was a furtherance of that pattern, but Boyer said, “It’s close enough to make me nervous.”

Boyer noted that the people of the state of Washington have made a decision on the issue and approved of the retail sales of marijuana.

“The citizens of Lynnwood have said this is what we want to do and if we pass this ban we’re saying we don’t care,” Boyer said.

Ross agreed.

“I believe the voters of the state of Washington have spoken,” she said. “I don’t believe it is our responsibility to tell them that they are mistaken.”

Ross also was adamant that she did not want any taxpayer money spent to defend the prohibition of sales of marijuana in Lynnwood.

The Planning Commission voted 5-2 against the ban and was in favor of allowing marijuana operations in select locations.

Cotton, Goodwin and Roberts emphasized that the City was not prohibiting the access or the usage of marijuana, but that the ban was specifically directed at commercial businesses in the City.

City staff and a resident also pointed out that a number of retail marijuana business are located close to the City, so accessing legal marijuana isn’t going to be a problem.

“I just don’t think anyone is going to be handicapped here by passing an ordinance to ban marijuana now,” Roberts said.

– By David Pan

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