Fife City Council approves outright ban on marijuana

Two weeks before the state is set to license the first recreational marijuana stores in Washington state, the city of Fife is headed toward banning all pot operations.

Despite a planning commission proposal that would have limited the number of retailers to fewer than five, council members said they were too uneasy about the uncharted territory and legal contradictions, voting 5-2 to ban any and all marijuana operations in the city.

The decision follows six months of research and discussion that resulted in a detailed planning commission recommendation favoring marijuana businesses within the city limits, prompted by a voter-approved Initiative 502.

Mayor Tim Curtis and council members Barry Johnson, Lew Wolfrom, Pat Hulcey and Rob Cerqui voted for the ban. Council members Winston Marsh and Bryan Yambe – though not outwardly supportive of the planning commission proposal – opposed an outright ban.

Hulcey said his primary issue was a lack of financial benefit to the city, noting that the state would receive all the tax revenue.

“I just don’t think it’s fair to the city that we aren’t receiving any tax money from these businesses,” he said.

Wolfrom’s primary concern was the contradiction between state and federal law: “It’s still too muddled.”

A final council vote is likely next month.

The planning commission proposal would have allowed retailers in some areas of a regional commercial zone, primarily along Pacific Highway East. Producers and processors would have been permitted in industrial zones, primarily along the perimeter of the city limits.

Among other limitations, the proposal also would have required retailers to have frontages along Pacific Highway – meaning the land parcels would have to touch the street – and be spaced at least 2,500 feet apart. The two rules combined would have limited the number of stores allowed in the city to no more than five, and likely fewer given the available space along the highway.