Federal Way council votes to ban marijuana stores

The Federal Way City Council unanimously voted to ban medical and recreational marijuana businesses at Tuesday's council meeting.

  • Wednesday, December 2, 2015 2:31pm

The Federal Way City Council unanimously voted to ban medical and recreational marijuana businesses at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Council bill No. 697 repealed ordinance 15-788, the moratorium on marijuana-related businesses, which was imposed last spring.

The moratorium on medical marijuana businesses is set to expire in May 2016, however, the ban will take effect in approximately 30 days.

This action came after the city of Federal Way put Advisory Proposition 1 on the general election ballot seeking direction from the public on whether to allow these businesses in Federal Way.

“The people of this community spoke loud and clear when they voted by 61 percent to say no pot shops in Federal Way and I am a firm believer that public policy needs to be a reflection of public will,” said Mayor Jim Ferrell. “That’s why I think this decision at this time is the right one by the council.”

Approximately 9,117 voted no (61.4 percent), while 5,737 voted yes (38.6 percent), despite the 53 percent of Federal Wayans who voted in favor of legalizing marijuana statewide in 2012 with the passing of Initiative 502.

“I made the commitment for my vote to reflect the result of the advisory vote, which was a clear mandate from our community, at 61 percent voting against locating recreational marijuana businesses in the city,” said Councilwoman Kelly Maloney. “After several years of discussion and research, I believe this decision was appropriate.”

Councilwoman Susan Honda said it was important to listen to the Federal Way citizens’ vote.

“The vote did surprise me as I expected it to be much closer,” she said. “However, our voters said that they did not want marijuana sold within the city limits. I promised to support what our voters wanted and so I voted with the council to not allow sales in the city.”

Before the council voted, Catherine North spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and urged the council to vote against the ban.

“Prohibition didn’t work before and I don’t think it’s going to work again,” North said. “There is no comparison in the number of deaths from drunk drivers versus drivers driving while under the influence of pot, and young people, minors, can walk into any 7-Eleven or Safeway or any other grocery store, any Walgreens, where there’s hard alcohol. And to say that we don’t want pot shops because of the kids makes no sense to me.”

However, Jim Stiles pointed out that more than 60 percent of voters disagreed with North and that the council should take into account the will of the people of Federal Way.

Stiles also noted he was concerned about the provision that allows medical marijuana users to grow marijuana individually or in a cooperative of four people, up to 60 plants, for personal use.

“Do we have control over who’s doing what?” Stiles asked.

While the proposed ordinance prohibits businesses from selling or growing medical marijuana, it does not address qualified patients or designated providers from individually growing marijuana at home or in a cooperative.

But, starting in July 2016, medical marijuana will only be sold in state licensed retail stores. To sell medical marijuana, store owners will need a medical marijuana endorsement, which they can apply for.

The City Council has imposed moratoriums on both medical and recreational marijuana since 2013, despite the mayor’s past recommendation to zone and regulate recreational marijuana-related businesses in the city.

“My support of marijuana in communities was rooted in the support of the public on this measure when I-502 passed,” Ferrell said. “That’s why this clarifying election was so important. As a public policy maker and somebody who, and every person on the council, wants to do what the majority of people want.”

The Mirror reached out to other City Council members for comment and is awaiting a reply.

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