The retail marijuana debate in the city Gig Harbor made its return to the City Council on Monday night.
Last year, the council placed a moratorium on retail sales, allowing the Planning Commission to consider what restrictions might be necessary in implementation. That moratorium will expire in October.
The council did not vote on a preferred option, but discussed several ideas. Two may be subject to a public hearing and the other requires a council resolution.
Tedd Wetherbee, owner of The Gallery, which wishes to open in Gig Harbor, called the meeting “a farce.”
“They’ve had had 18 months and two moratoriums,” said Wetherbee, who stressed that the council should make a decision — not continue to debate.
Two options will be presented at the public hearing during the July 27 council meeting. The first is the recommendation from the Planning Commission to lift the moratorium and allow retail marijuana outlets with restricted definitions.
The second is to outright ban the sale of marijuana in the city. Council members Tim Payne and Rahna Lovrovich prefer a ban.
“I favor an outright ban,” Payne said. “I clearly have no problem with the decriminalization of pot, and I have no problem with an individual that wants to imbibe in edibles or oils or whatever is legal under the law.”
However, Payne does not want retail sales occurring in the city of Gig Harbor.
The final option, nicknamed “The Arbenz Option” because it was posited by council member Casey Arbenz, is to continue the moratorium until an advisory vote can be held Nov. 4.
The advisory vote will not be subject to a public hearing. The council will consider a resolution on the council agenda, and if that passes the other two options will not be considered. Discussion on the advisory vote will be scheduled ahead of the public hearing on the council’s agenda.
“To me, it’s a very simple question: Is retail marijuana right for Gig Harbor?” Arbenz said.
Staff informally estimated in the meeting that putting an advisory vote on the ballot would cost about $10,000.
In 2012, voters in Gig Harbor approved Initiative 502 to allow retail sales to go through. Across the state, the laws are being implemented.
Wetherbee likes the advisory vote idea and he’ll be at the public hearing at the next meeting to see what the public has to say.
“I hope that we get the vote because the people of Gig Harbor will speak,” Wetherbee said.
A resolution would need to go through by Aug. 4 in order to make the November ballot.
The other option Wetherbee was interested in was posited by council member Michael Perrow.
Perrow said he is frustrated with the state’s Liquor and Cannabis Control Board and the “twisted and mangled” definitions that have popped up.
For the Planning Commission option, Perrow said he would like to run over it to make sure that voters get what they voted for and not new definitions they might not favor.
“The protections in place were important to many people,” Perrow said. He’ll vote yes “as long as the intent of the Gig Harbor voter is ... taken into consideration in this.”
Council member Paul Kadzik admitted he was unclear on the intent of the 2012 voters.
However, Perrow’s option didn’t make it through council discussion.
“It was brushed over by the people looking for a ban,” Wetherbee said.
So without Perrow’s option, Wetherbee is optimistic about a vote, and he’d like it to be binding. If he loses, he said, he’ll move on, but he hopes if a ban fails, the council will move on, too. He’s been waiting to open his business for more than a year; he’s eager to see the ball start rolling.
“I can’t wait for November 4,” he said.