Seven years after voters legalized marijuana statewide, the debate rages on over whether cannabis retailers should be allowed in the city.
But Federal Wayans will have their say for the second time as they vote on Proposition 1 this November.
Several citizens have spoken passionately both for and against retailers moving in to the city in past council meetings.
Cat Morrison advocated for retailers to come into the city, citing her past experience with opiate addiction and how marijuana was able to get her away from the harder substances.
“Opiates were killing me,” Morrison said. “Cannabis has saved this girl’s life.”
Susan Hastings, another outspoken citizen, said she did not agree with bringing marijuana stores to the city simply for the revenue opportunity.
“Don’t look for income on the backs of other people,” Hastings said, concerned about what could be allowed in the future if marijuana retailers are legalized in Federal Way. “What will not generate revenue? Prostitution? Selling baby parts?”
After several months of public comment hotly debating this issue, the pro and con committees have put forth their statements and rebuttals for the November ballot on this issue.
The “pro” committee’s statement focuses on the increased revenue the city could get by allowing retailers into the city, and emphasizes the inability for youth to enter the premises without proper ID.
If retailers are allowed in city limits, Federal Way could be looking at revenue of around $180,000 in excise tax, similarly to the revenue Auburn earned from its three marijuana retailers between 2017 and 2018, according to the pro statement. Des Moines earned $90,ooo from one store. That doesn’t include the sales tax that was also collected, proponents say.
However, opponents of cannabis stores say this amount is insignificant.
According to the “con” committee’s rebuttal, “the up to $300,000 in excise and sales tax revenues we could receive is insignificant — not even enough to put three police officers on the street.”
The con committee’s statement focuses on how marijuana can affect the development of children’s brains and says there are alternate ways to increase revenue for the city.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that marijuana interferes with memory, concentration, learning and brain development, lowers the odds of completing high school and increases the risk of psychosis,” according to their statement.
However, proponents of cannabis stores say the argument that allowing marijuana stores in the city would tell youth marijuana is safe “defies logic.”
“Alcohol and tobacco products are widely available, yet no one believes they are safe for teens,” according to the proponent’s rebuttal.
Jack Walsh, a member of the con committee, disagreed with this point, saying, “Just because alcohol is easily available for youth and is more acceptable doesn’t justify doing the same thing to marijuana. Kids shouldn’t be drinking alcohol either.”
The pro committee also claims that Washington’s Department of Health reported that cannabis use among teens has stayed flat or decreased since legalization.
Allison Taylor, a pro committee member and chair of the 30th District Democrats, also said the con committee was intentionally misleading people with their statement that “Sixty-one percent of Federal Way residents voted against pot shops four years ago.”
“I think it was dishonest that they intentionally misrepresented that 61% of our population voted against marijuana shops in 2015,” she said, noting only about 9,500 Federal Way residents actually voted in the 2015 election.
Walsh said he found it strange that people would consider that misleading.
“Our State Senator, Claire Wilson, was only voted for by 30% of Federal Way’s population, and she’s still our senator.”
Essentially, lack of voter turnout does not delegitimize voting results, Walsh said.
During the 2015 election, Federal Way residents voted to disallow marijuana retailers in city limits.
According to election results, approximately 9,117 voted they did not want any pot shops to come into the city (61.4%), while 5,737 voted yes (38.6%), despite the 53% of Federal Wayans who voted in favor of legalizing marijuana statewide in 2012 with the passing of Initiative 502.
Medical marijuana has been fighting to come into the city since 2011; however, the first moratorium on medical marijuana retail was enacted in 2011 and reinstated in 2013.
The council extended the measure in October 2014 and again in April 2015, when they approved an advisory vote that asked Federal Way voters if they wanted marijuana retail businesses in the city.
In December 2015, the council voted to permanently ban marijuana retailers within city limits after the November election results of the advisory vote came back.
However, as many people on the pro side of the argument have stated, that was a few years ago, so they say the city is well overdue for another vote.
During the July 2 council meeting, council member Jesse Johnson said four years after the vote is more than enough time to bring a vote on this issue back to Federal Way residents.
“Every four years as a country we choose a new president and direction for our country,” he said. “So why not, five years later, bring it back to the vote of the people.”
The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board allotted four marijuana retail licenses to the city of Federal Way, of which Judy James holds two.