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Hearing set for Thurston County pot regulations

Olympian file photo of cannabis plants at a South Sound medical marijuana dispensary. Thurston County officials predict recent changes in the state law could prompt people in the medical marijuana industry to speak at Tuesday’s public hearing on interim zoning regulations for pot operations.
Olympian file photo of cannabis plants at a South Sound medical marijuana dispensary. Thurston County officials predict recent changes in the state law could prompt people in the medical marijuana industry to speak at Tuesday’s public hearing on interim zoning regulations for pot operations. Staff photographer

Thurston County Commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed six-month renewal of interim regulations regarding the production, processing and sale of recreational marijuana in unincorporated areas of the county.

During the hearing, public comment also will be taken on the board’s Oct. 6 adoption of a moratorium of new retail locations outside of the county’s Urban Growth Areas. The moratorium does not affect retail operations that are already in business, those that have a permit or those that have already submitted an application to the county, according to Mike Kain, a planning manager with Resource Stewardship.

The moratorium was in response to a Sept. 23 letter from the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board to the county that indicated the limit of six marijuana retail licenses was lifted on Oct. 12, he said.

County commissioners first adopted interim zoning regulations in November 2013. More amendments will likely take place before the county’s final set of regulations is adopted, officials say.

The draft ordinance would go into effect on Nov. 11, which is when current interim regulations are set to expire, according to a news release from the county.

The interim regulations and the moratorium are expected to be rolled into the same ordinance, according to senior planner Jeremy Davis. Both will be in place for six months, he said.

Kain said he expects the hearing to draw comments from those in the medical marijuana community.

“The state has determined that medical marijuana will be treated the same as recreational retail for permitting purposes,” Kain said. “So we may not have to change our code to accommodate medical retail because they’ll be treated the same as recreational.”

The county has four recreational pot retail enterprises that have been approved by the state, he said. But county officials say they don’t know how many medical marijuana businesses operate in Thurston County.

“We have no clue because the county does not require a business license, so none of those have been permitted,” Kain said.

Under the state’s latest rules, medical marijuana establishments must obtain a state permit or shut down by July 1, 2016, Kain said.

The state began accepting applications for pot stores earlier this month for the first time since 2013. New stores will be licensed to sell the drug for both recreational and medical use, and existing stores can apply for an endorsement to sell medical marijuana.

The hearing will begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at County Courthouse Building One, Room 280, 2000 Lakeridge Dr. SW, Olympia. Written comments can be emailed to davisj@co.thurston.wa.us; those received by 4 p.m. Tuesday will be included in the written testimony provided to the board for the hearing, Davis said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433

lpemberton@theolympian.com

@Lisa_Pemberton

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