Lacey council sends pot issue to planning commission

Lacey City Council discussed recreational marijuana well into the night on Thursday, but after a two-hour work session -- which followed a two-hour council meeting -- the council finally agreed to this:

To have the city’s planning commission study, with a future recommendation to the council, changing a city ordinance with regard to retail marijuana sites located in proximity to churches and known future school sites.

But the council did not enact a marijuana moratorium, which means that recreational marijuana, as approved by voters and undertaken by the state Liquor Control Board, rolls on in Lacey.

Thursday night’s work session, which ended shortly before 11 p.m., was triggered by concerns raised by a member of Turning Point Church in Lacey at a recent council meeting.

Jubilee resident and church member John Bowser expressed frustration at that meeting that several retail marijuana businesses had been proposed for a building at 3601 Marvin Road N.E., Lacey, which is next door to the church.

The church, he said, offers addiction recovery services and wants to offer daycare. Bowser, at the time, asked the council to approve a moratorium on vetting and permitting licenses for retail marijuana businesses.

Bowser said after Thursday’s work session that he was disappointed that the council did not specifically discuss his request, but was pleased the planning commission is going to take it up for review.

“I think we did OK,” he said.

But the church and others in the surrounding community concerned about those proposed businesses at that Marvin Road address also got some good news: Christian Pang of DuPont, the managing partner of Natural Mystics LLC -- a proposed recreational retail pot business that is also ranked second in the state’s lottery system for Lacey -- announced to the audience that he no longer is considering the Marvin Road address and is looking for a new location.

He later told the audience, about 50 of whom stayed for the work session, that he wants to be accepted in the community as a “legitimate and respected business.”

Lacey, under Initiative 502, was allotted a maximum of two recreational pot retailers within the city limits. The No. 1 lottery position is held by Thielen Brothers Enterprises, which has proposed a retailer at 3813 Pacific Ave. If Natural Mystics and Thielen Brothers win licenses, then no other retailer will be approved at 3601 Marvin Road N.E.

But if for some reason they do not get approved, then the state will move on down the list of Lacey lottery rankings. Four others on the Lacey list, including three under the name of Delta-9, have proposed pot retailers at the Marvin Road address.

There was more news: during the work session discussion Patrick Moen, a managing director of Privateer Holdings of Seattle, announced that Privateer, through a subsidiary called Arbormain, plans to open a 200,000-square-foot facility in the Hawks Prairie area. Spaces and equipment inside that building will be leased to marijuana producers and processors, creating hundreds of jobs, he told the council. He also expects the company to spend more than $100 million in capital improvements.

But he also cautioned the council on discussing moratoriums and other policy changes with regard to marijuana because that could cause the company to re-evaluate its plans for Lacey.

Moratoriums did come up during the work session, ranging from 60 days to six months, but none were approved.

Council member Jason Hearn had the strongest opinion about pot, a comment that was greeted by applause from the audience.

“I am completely and adamantly against any form of legal marijuana in the city of Lacey,” he said.

Hearn’s motion for a moratorium on marijuana failed to be approved.