Pierce County Council bans pot activities until rules set

Staff writerJuly 3, 2013 

The Pierce County Council approved a temporary ban Tuesday on growing, processing and selling marijuana.

The council voted unanimously to prohibit those activities in all unincorporated parts of the county until two steps take place: The state issues permanent licensing rules, and the council adopts zoning regulations.

The County Council is the latest local government to take action responding to statewide Initiative 502. Voters approved that measure in November to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana for those 21 or older.

Under the initiative, the state Liquor Control Board will set up a system to license the production, sale and processing of recreational marijuana. Those rules are expected to be completed by Dec. 1. A revised draft proposal is due out Wednesday.

The county’s temporary ban codifies current practice until it can develop rules.

Council members offered little comment on the ordinance Tuesday, but Fircrest resident Cat Jeter did.

“If you enact this ordinance today, you’re going to make me a criminal,” Jeter said.

“Essentially, you’re throwing all the cannabis growers under the bus,” she said. “I see no exceptions here for growing my own medicine.”

Council lawyer Susan Long responded that marijuana is illegal under federal law and that the ordinance applies to recreational use of marijuana. “It does not address medical marijuana at all,” Long said.

The county’s ordinance does not address collective gardens for medical marijuana. No permits have been issued for them in unincorporated Pierce County.

The ordinance sets up a committee to recommend zoning rules by Sept. 30 that could either dictate where pot businesses could go or make a ban permanent. It will have representatives of the county executive, sheriff, prosecuting attorney, council, and planning and land services.

The interim regulations will be in effect for six months.

Had the county not approved a temporary ban, the ordinance says, marijuana-related uses could have been located in unincorporated areas, “triggering burdensome code enforcement actions at a later date.”

I-502 sets some rules for locating marijuana businesses. Growers, processors and retailers will not be allowed within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, libraries, recreation centers, day care centers or bus stations. The county has identified those areas locally.

Other South Sound governments are also taking time to figure out what to do about marijuana. The University Place City Council in May adopted a six-month moratorium on marijuana cultivation and related activities. The Olympia City Council in May approved a one-year moratorium.

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647
steve.maynard@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/street
@TNTstevemaynard

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