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Council mulls recreational marijuana in Federal Way
The city of Federal Way has a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses through November.
With the first recreational marijuana business in the state set to open in July in Spokane, the Federal Way City Council is revisiting the issue and how the city should proceed in whether or not to allow such businesses.
While the Council did not take actual action during their June 17 meeting, they directed city staff to begin exploring the option of regulating recreational marijuana businesses in the city.
"Nothing here is set in stone," City Assistant Attorney Peter Beckwith said, setting three options out for the Council during a presentation at the meeting: do nothing, which would leave it in the hands of the mayor's office, mostly; bans, which local governments like Pierce County have already enacted; or regulate, which Seattle and Des Moines have begun exploring.
"I think we need to look seriously at regulating, very seriously look at going to the state Legislature, to make sure the city gets money," Councilwoman Dini Duclos said. "I think that's an important thing, we're the ones dealing with any potential fallout, not the state. I think we should make that the top priority on our legislative agenda."
The tax issue Duclos addressed dealt with plans to have taxes from recreational marijuana sales go towards the now-defunct Washington Basic Health Plan Program. That program was discontinued with the implementation of the federal-level Affordable Care Act, meaning that, for now, there is no set-in-stone plan for the anticipated tax revenues of recreational marijuana sales.
Councilman Bob Celski didn't necessarily want the ban option taken off the table he said, because of "the dichotomy between the federal law and state law."
"I don't know if there's any interest in pursuing that angle at all," Celski continued, "maybe we follow that path. But that wouldn't mean that we would just put our head in the sand; we'd have to work towards some end because eventually the federal law may change. That's what I'm confused on, what really takes precedent?"
"That's a good question, I think a lot of communities are feeling their way through this," Mayor Jim Ferrell said.
Beckwith noted that the state Liquor Control Board allowed for three recreational marijuana retail stores to be located in Federal Way. So far, there have been 15 applicants, but Beckwith noted that he was unaware that any were close to being approved, and if they are approved, the Liquor Control Board will notify the city beforehand. Even in that case, Beckwith said the city isn't powerless.
"Even though the state may be licensing a business to operate within the city, it does not mean the city has to allow the business to operate, and the city can regulate where within the city that business can operate," he said.
Beckwith also noted that due to the presence of the gaming arcade in the Commons Mall, the downtown core of the city would essentially be off-limits to these kinds of businesses, due to a 1,000 foot buffer rule written by the Liquor Control Board. Beckwith presented a skeletal framework for regulation of these businesses to the Council, which the Council agreed should move onto the Planning Commission later this summer.
The city currently has a moratorium on such businesses until November, but the idea was expressed that if there hasn't been enough time to address the issue by November, the city could extend the moratorium.