University Place council slaps ban on marijuana businesses

Staff writerApril 15, 2014 

The University Place City Council made the unanimous decision Monday night to ban recreational marijuana businesses from operating in the city of 31,000.

Before making the decision, the council debated the implications of banning businesses looking to grow, process or sell marijuana-related products.

Councilman Kent Keel asked whether the city would set itself up for a lawsuit if it passed the ban.

“Other cities across the state have taken a similar position and there really hasn’t been litigation to date,” city attorney Steve Victor said.

Victor made the recommendation to prohibit the businesses after extensive research, he said.

“The result that I arrived at was not predetermined. I did not work backward to justify a way to determine you should not allow marijuana businesses,” Victor said.

The council’s vote to ban marijuana business doesn’t affect people’s ability to use recreational marijuana as stipulated in the voter-approved Initiative 502. Fifty-one percent of UP voters approved the initiative.

The council talked about the perception that it was going against the majority of its residents by banning the businesses, but decided its decision was separate from allowing the legal use of recreational marijuana.

“I am very confident if this passes that it’s defensible to anyone,” Keel said before the council vote. “I think though that council will still have to respond to the 51 percent of the people that voted for it.”

The council had the option to allow the businesses in a specific zone, but didn’t entertain that discussion Monday.

The state only allocated one license for UP, so the council’s action has minimal impact on the growing community of recreational marijuana entrepreneurs looking to locate in Pierce County.

City officials are not aware of anyone applying for the city’s one license.

The City Council’s decision comes after the state attorney general ruled in January that local municipalities can regulate whether businesses that grow, process or sell marijuana are allowed in city limits.

University Place joins Pierce County, and the cities of Lakewood and Sumner in banning businesses looking to grow, sell or process marijuana products.

The Gig Harbor City Council passed a six-month emergency moratorium on retail marijuana Monday night that took effect immediately. The council said it would hold a public hearing in June.

Staff writer Karen Miller contributed to this report.

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