Olympia City Council places moratorium on pot-related land uses

Staff writerMay 7, 2013 

The Olympia City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to place a one-year moratorium on new medical marijuana collective gardens and other marijuana-related land uses.

Council members approved the matter with one vote, instead of the usual two, citing a public emergency. The council agreed to hold a June 25 public hearing on the matter, as required by the law allowing moratoriums.

The ordinance was placed on the agenda at the last minute during Tuesday’s council meeting. City Manager Steve Hall said the city needed a “timeout” to “give us time to assess what’s happening.”

Under the ordinance, city staff will look at how other governments are regulating marijuana-related land uses, evaluate potential impacts of collective gardens, and bring a recommendation to the Olympia Planning Commission.

The planning commission will forward its recommendation along with the staff’s recommendation to the City Council for consideration.

The moratorium:

• Bans land and building owners from using properties for the sale, use, growing, distribution or processing of marijuana.

• Bans approval of any permit applications for collective gardens or any establishment involved in the sale, use, growing, manufacture or processing of marijuana. • Prevents existing marijuana gardens from opening connected establishments such as performance spaces, private clubs, night clubs, taverns or similar establishments.

The council’s action is a reaction to Initiative 502, which voters approved last year to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for those 21 and older. The initiative charged the state Liquor Control Board with setting up a system to license the growing, processing and selling of recreational marijuana.

Such rules are expected to be completed by Dec. 1, and Hall said the city wants to be prepared should the state put the Liquor Control Board in charge of regulating medical marijuana in addition to recreational pot.

Olympia is concerned that “marijuana-related land uses could become established in the City that are inconsistent with or conflict with the Liquor Control Board’s rules,” the ordinance says. The city also is concerned, according to the measure, that use and delivery of marijuana is still a violation of federal law and that the state Department of Health has confirmed that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under state law.

The ordinance states that the city considers “the siting and location of collective gardens” a “significant public safety matter.” There are at least eight collective gardens in Olympia, City Attorney Tom Morrill said. Downtown “may be at a saturation point” of collective gardens that could undermine the city’s goals for downtown, the ordinance states.

Morrill said the moratorium could last less than a year, but likely will be more than six months.

The moratorium could be extended for six months after the year is up. The council could also subsequently decide to allow state-licensed marijuana stores during the moratorium period if the state comes up with rules during that time, he said

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