Olympia council will hear from public on pot moratorium

Staff writerJune 24, 2013 

The public will have an opportunity to tell the Olympia City Council on Tuesday what it thinks about a one-year moratorium on new medical marijuana collective gardens and other pot-related land uses.

Council members surprised the public on May 8 with an emergency ordinance banning the marijuana-related uses for one year, starting immediately. But, in doing so, it invoked a state law that requires a public hearing on the subject.

The public hearing is at the council’s meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E.

City staff prompted the council to act since “as many as eight and possibly more collective gardens within the city limits” have opened, according to a staff report. City staff want time to draft zoning codes to restrict collective gardens and other facilities by studying what other cities have done. In Thurston County, Lacey has enacted regulations on medical marijuana.

City staff cite a number of potential problems with the facilities, including:

 • Criminal issues, such as burglaries, at medical marijuana facilities.

 • “Degrading neighborhood aesthetics,” increased nighttime traffic, loitering from patrons and parking issues.

 • “Serious risk of fire hazard” due to grow lights and fans.

 • Conversion of retail or residential uses to marijuana facilities.

 • Improper ventilation, leading to mold.

 • Illegal structural modifications.

“Given the above impacts, several communities have banned collective gardens entirely within their city limits, created zoning restrictions or adopted moratoria,” the report says.

The council will consider three options: keeping the moratorium for a year, modifying the moratorium or lifting it.

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.

Olympia’s action was 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.

Even though I-502 deals with recreational marijuana, City Manager Steve 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.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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