Marijuana moratorium, drug zones on council’s plate

The Olympia City Council will consider the renewal of a moratorium on medical marijuana and the adoption of downtown drug-free zones during its next meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

At the meeting, the council will have a public hearing on a six-month extension of a medical marijuana moratorium. After the public hearing, the council is expected to vote on the extension.

In May 2013, the council unanimously approved a one-year moratorium on new medical marijuana facilities and collective gardens. The moratorium does not include state-licensed recreational marijuana facilities; the council officially excluded these facilities from the moratorium in November.

Olympia is among 71 cities in the state with such a moratorium. The city has 13 medical marijuana dispensaries that were allowed to remain open. According to a staff report, “the only complaints to the city’s code enforcement division about the existing collective gardens have been nuisance smells.”

Washington voters legalized recreational marijuana use in 2012, and the first legal outlets are expected to open in July. However, medical marijuana exists in a legal gray area and remains largely unregulated.

The council is expected to approve an ordinance to establish “drug-free zones” at five civic centers in the downtown area.

The zones are among several strategies aimed at reducing the distribution of heroin and methamphetamine in downtown Olympia. The ordinance would enhance penalties for felony drug dealing offenses within 1,000 feet of five sites: Hands On Children’s Museum, The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, The Olympia Center, Olympia City Hall and the Olympia Timberland Regional Library.

The council approved a first reading of the ordinance April 1. Councilman Jim Cooper was the lone dissenting vote, citing a need for more information on the ordinance’s financial effects. Cooper also said the law fails to address treatment and prevention for drug offenders.

The council is expected to approve bid awards for construction projects, which include paving on Fifth Avenue and a roundabout at Boulevard Road and 22nd Avenue.

Four firms have submitted bids for the Fifth Avenue paving project, which would add new curbs and sidewalks between Water Street and Capitol Way. The city estimates this project will cost $329,618, according to documents.

The roundabout project at Boulevard Road has drawn seven bidders. The city estimates the project will cost about $2 million and will include building more sidewalks while improving traffic flow for drivers and pedestrians.

Andy Hobbs: 360-704-6869