DuPont council could ban marijuana sales on day they become legal

On the first day licensed businesses can sell recreational marijuana in Washington, the DuPont City Council will consider permanently banning sales of the drug in the city of just under 9,000 people.

The council will take up the issue at its regular meeting Tuesday night. The timing of the proposed ban is pure coincidence, said Councilman Mike Courts.

“It’s not the city of DuPont making some big stand on this day, it just happens to work out that way,” Courts said. The item was placed on the council’s agenda “weeks and weeks ago,” he said, adding that the council could decide to hold off on a vote until a later meeting.

“I’m not ready to lift the prohibition,” Courts said. “There are legal challenges that put everyone involved in some sort of limbo right now and I am not ready to do that.”

The city has had a moratorium on the licensing or establishment of medical and recreational marijuana businesses in city limits since September. It was adopted to give city staff time to review regulating marijuana after Washington voters decriminalized it in 2012. The city also was waiting to see what state legislators might do.

With no bills passed to address the council’s concerns about disparity between state and federal law regarding the legality of marijuana, City Manager Ted Danek has recommended the ban.

Legislators also haven’t acted to direct more revenue from marijuana sales to cities, which Mayor Michael Grayum cited as another reason the city is considering the ban.

“Public safety is our top priority and we’re concerned about increasing access in our community,” Grayum said. “We want to make sure we do everything we can to keep kids and families safe.”

No one has applied to open recreational marijuana businesses in DuPont and no medical marijuana businesses currently operate in the city, Courts said. He said he supports banning the commercial sale of the drug in part because of DuPont’s proximity to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the large number of active duty personnel who live in the city.

“Forty percent of our population is active duty military and it’s still absolutely prohibited for them,” Courts said. “We don’t want to become the drugstore to JBLM.”

If the council prohibits marijuana businesses, it would be no different than the city’s existing bans on casinos and strip clubs, he said.

While Courts said he supports the ban, the council doesn’t have to take action at its meeting Tuesday. Other options include asking staff to draft regulations to allow the businesses, scheduling public hearings before the moratorium expires Sept. 10, or extending the moratorium another year.

If the council approves the ban, it will join several other South Sound jurisdictions that prohibit the sale of recreational marijuana. Pierce County, Lakewood and Sumner have said marijuana entrepreneurs aren't welcome unless the federal government changes its stance on pot. The Fife City Council voted last month to ban pot and will take a final vote Tuesday. Gig Harbor has an emergency moratorium that expires in October.