Puyallup City Council extends moratorium on recreational pot use

Extension is the second since initial implementation last August, will expire in October

Staff writerMarch 18, 2014 

Puyallup officials have further delayed implementation of a law legalizing recreational marijuana use in the city.

The City Council voted 6-1 to extend a moratorium on the production and distribution of pot and the sale of small amounts to those 21 and older.

Councilman John Hopkins was the lone no vote, arguing that the council should approve a shorter extension of the moratorium.

The moratorium was first put in place last August, then extended for six months in October. It was set to expire at the end of this month.

The extension means Pierce County's third-largest city will lag behind the state's timeline for implementing Initiative 502, which was approved in November 2012. The state is already issuing licenses, and retailers are scheduled to open by this summer.

City staff recommended the moratorium extension in light of recent legislative decisions and the state attorney general's advisory opinion that cities and counties can say no to recreational marijuana.

Deputy City Attorney Steve Kirkelie wrote in a memo to the council that the additional time will "allow further research, analysis, and deliberation."

In a unanimous vote Jan. 29, the planning commission recommended the city allow marijuana producers, processors and retailers in some areas of the city.

Under that proposal, marijuana retailers would be allowed only in commercial zones while producers and processors would be allowed in industrial/manufacturing and agricultural zones. Additionally, no pot operations would be allowed near businesses or services aimed at minors, or on land that immediately abuts residential property.

The City Council has not been formally presented with the specifics of the planning commission recommendation, Kirkelie said. As a result, many on the council wanted more time for review.

Mayor John Knutsen said such a sensitive issue takes careful consideration.

"It's complicated because federal law says one thing and the state says another," Knutsen said, adding that he "sincerely believes it will be handled by a court."

Of the few residents and advocates who spoke Tuesday night, most were in favor of implementing I-502. Some urged the council to oppose a moratorium extension.

"It's time to let the people have what they voted for," resident Merv Swanson said. "Let's follow the law."

Other local governments have reacted to marijuana legalization with mixed approaches.

Sumner, Lakewood and University Place have de facto bans or moratoriums on pot sales for as long as the federal government deems marijuana an illegal drug. The Pierce County Council approved similar regulations.

But cities such as Tacoma, Gig Harbor and Edgewood have changed city code to allow marijuana sales in limited zones, just as Puyallup's planning commission recommended.

State officials have allocated two licenses for recreational marijuana sellers within the Puyallup city limits should the City Council approve proposed regulations.

Currently, state Liquor Control Board data show 29 pending applications for retailers in Puyallup.


Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
kari.plog@thenewstribune.com
Follow Kari on Twitter: @KariPlog

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