The potential ban on all recreational marijuana-related businesses in Federal Way progressed on Oct. 6 after the Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously voted to uphold the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
The ordinance will go before the Federal Way City Council on Oct. 21 for a final vote before it becomes city law.
“For me personally, there’s several reasons why I want the ordinance to go the way the Planning Commission recommended it,” said Councilman Bob Celski, committee chair, adding that he will go into more detail at the Council meeting. “… I’m worried about the safety of our youth. I worry about the affect this is going to have on drivers. I’m concerned about the image our city may garner if we allow the production, process and sale of marijuana.”
The Planning Commission heard a staff presentation on Sept. 17, which recommended the city establish specific zones for marijuana retail stores and processing and production facilities after the year-long moratorium expired on Nov. 5.
But they voted to do away with the zoning regulations and ban it altogether.
One commissioner said there was a lack of information but others were concerned the available locations were too aligned with the areas available for group homes for sex offenders and other high-risk businesses.
The Land Use and Transportation Committee, comprised of Celski and Councilwomen Lydia Assefa-Dawson and Kelly Maloney, was also tasked with addressing medical marijuana businesses, as there is a year-long moratorium on those as well.
City staff said at the meeting that other cities have handled medical marijuana businesses in the same way as recreational marijuana shops.
Ultimately, the committee voted to recommend extending the moratorium on medical marijuana another six months because they felt there wasn’t enough information to include those businesses in the ban set to go before Council.
Maloney said medical marijuana has been legal for a while and it is important to have that conversation surrounding those businesses separate from the recreational side of it all.
After the committee had already voted, one citizen decided to give comment last minute.
John Tsakonas, a marijuana retail license applicant in Federal Way, said the Liquor Control Board legalizing the businesses would produce a lot of extra money for other projects.
“They told me, but they won’t tell me in writing, that all the cities that participate in this will have a task force, which is what a major part of the state [funds] will go toward, to fight the illegal drug problem, which is just the kids dealing drugs,” Tsakonas said. “Anybody doing illegal drug dealing, they’re gonna go after them with vengeance.”
Mikhail Carpenter, a spokesman with the Washington State Liquor Control Board, said the extra money for such a task force was untrue to his knowledge and could not confirm Tsakonas’s statement.
But Tsakonas mentioned how easy it was to obtain a medical marijuana license and that those businesses don’t pay taxes.
“It’s almost kind of pathetic in what they get away with,” he said. “I think if you legalize, if you put a legal store here, it would benefit the city.”
To state your opinion on whether the city should ban recreational marijuana facilities in Federal Way, attend the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Oct. 21 and provide feedback during the public comment portion.
Contact the entire Council by emailing email@example.com.