Thurston County residents criticize interim pot regulations

lpemberton@theolympian.comJanuary 7, 2014 

The interim zoning regulations on where licensed marijuana can be grown, processed and sold in Thurston County are too restrictive and costly, said residents who spoke Tuesday evening at a public hearing.

“The fees, just to me, are outrageous,” said Mary McKnew, a lawyer who was an adviser to former Govs. Booth Gardner and Mike Lowry and is now working on a pot business plan. “They’re four or five times potentially what the state is requiring.”

About 20 people attended the meeting, and seven of them addressed the
County Commissioners.

It will cost about $2,700 to apply for a grow operation, regardless of size, according to Mike Kain, a planning manager with the county.

“It goes up to around $6,000 if you want a large processing operation and it’s about $3,200 for a retail operation,” he said.

But those fees are on top of the $2,500 that resident Jeff Gilmore, a longtime pot grower who pushed for the legalization of it, expects to pay the state to receive grower and processor licenses.

Add the cost of permits for an agriculture building and upgrading power on the property, and he estimates that it will cost about $9,000 to get a licensed operation on his farm near Tenino.

The fees aren’t business-friendly, he said.

“Let’s create jobs here in Thurston County,” he said. “Revenue is a good thing.”

Brian Offord, who owns warehouses in a business park in the Mud Bay area, urged the commissioners to allow growers and processors in areas zoned “rural commercial centers.” The interim ordinance bans them from those areas, even though greenhouses and wholesale businesses would still be permitted.

County manager Cliff Moore said there’s still time to adjust the interim regulations which were approved on Nov. 12 with a one-year work plan. Commissioners will hear a briefing on the regulations on Jan. 15.

State officials have processed more than 6,600 applications for marijuana business licenses in Washington state, and they still have more to go.

Some 2,666 of those are growing license applications, and 1,918 are processing applications.

The liquor board is limiting the number of marijuana stores to 334 statewide, at least initially. There have been 2,035 retail applications received, which means there could be lotteries for those licenses in many areas.

Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 @Lisa_Pemberton

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