Residents confused by proposed marijuana amendments

Confusion filled the air as approximately 40 people attended a public hearing before Thurston County commissioners Thursday, discussing new amendments for marijuana regulations.

The proposed ordinance would amend county interim marijuana regulations governing state-licensed marijuana producers, processors and retailers authorized by Chapter 69.50 RCW.

Changes would affect marijuana producers and processors in residential zones.

The minimum size of a legal lot — for marijuana production and processing in residential zoning districts — would increase from 1 acre to 5 acres.

Setbacks — the distance between structures and residential boundaries — would increase from 25 feet to 100 feet. The setback would apply to all operations associated with marijuana production and processing, with the exception of access driveways. Expansion within the setback is prohibited.

At the hearing, Mike Kain, county planning manager, clarified that the new amendments would not affect business already vested in the county, meaning businesses that are already approved or have already submitted an application.

Pre-existing, vested businesses that do not meet the new setback or minimum lot size would be exempt from the changes. However, future expansion within the new setback would not be permitted.

This clarification was given several times throughout the hearing.

Still, several marijuana business owners in attendance were seemingly outraged, claiming that this would ‘shut down’ their businesses.

Bill Eickmeyer, who has invested in business in the Light Industrial District, said, “Those who have invested ... under existing laws should not be forced to abandon what they have invested in.”

Others expressed concerns about marijuana businesses encroaching on their neighborhoods, with visibility, noise and smell.

Joan Fleming, Rochester resident, said she has, “concerns about noise, fumes, potential traffic, and crime.”

“This is a residential area with lots of kids,” she said.

Many attendees expressed a need for case-by-case consideration instead of a blanket solution.

State regulations — as well as pre-existing county regulations — regarding marijuana production in residential areas are already in place.

The proposed amendments will be discussed during a briefing Wednesday by the Thurston County commissioners. After the discussion, commissioners could decide whether to vote on the regulations at a later meeting.