Marijuana moratorium goes up in smoke

January 2, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The Newcastle City Council decided to continue its wait-and-see approach when it comes to the Initiative 502-induced recreational marijuana industry, voting down a motion to establish a moratorium on marijuana licenses at its Dec. 17 meeting.

They elected instead to wait for a forthcoming attorney general’s opinion about a municipality’s right to ban or impose strict land-use regulations on the drug.

“I still think, on balance, the better thing is to do nothing for now and to preserve your options whether they be ban, or moratorium or zoning regulations,” Councilman Bill Erxleben said.

Councilmen Gordon Bisset and John Dulcich supported a moratorium, seeing it as a proactive move, rather than a reactive one just in case the state received any Newcastle license applicants, which it hadn’t at the time of the Dec. 17 meeting.

“I hate moratoriums, but this is one instance where there are the dynamics of this law and there are so many changes and so many unknowns,” Dulcich said. “This is asking for a timeout period where we can get our ordinances and our zoning codes into place so we really understand this.”

A moratorium won’t stop people from applying for licenses, though, Erxleben said, referring to an Issaquah man who applied despite that city’s moratorium.

“While the city of Issaquah is refusing to issue a license, this guy’s got grand plans for as soon as that moratorium ends,” he said.

Just a week later, a Newcastle address appeared on the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s list of license applicants.

Resident Jake Rayl applied for a producer and processor license using his Newcastle apartment address. The thing is, though, Rayl said he has no plans to set up shop in the city.

“Bottom line, we’re not doing anything in the city of Newcastle,” he said.

It caused some confusion between him and city staff. Rayl believed he could apply for a license using his own address, while he waits to find a location to grow outside of Newcastle.

The city was under the impression that applicants for the licenses must have specific sites identified at submittal, Community Development Director Tim McHarg said.

McHarg said city staff would work to reconcile the confusion with the Liquor Control Board after the holidays.

Still, it doesn’t change anything in the eyes of the council, which will continue to monitor the attorney general’s stance and the local license issue and see what transpires, Mayor Rich Crispo said.

“So far, no legitimate or appropriate applications have been received regarding the growing or selling of marijuana in the city of Newcastle,” he said.

Based on the board’s rules calling for a 1,000-foot separation between marijuana facilities and places such as parks, libraries and schools, there are only three Newcastle properties that could house potential locations for marijuana businesses or growers.

Those are the Shell gas station, the Coal Creek Utility District building, and the Hansen Moving and Storage building.


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