Gig Harbor is whittling down its options for allowing marijuana in the city, and a major decision is expected to happen at the next meeting.
It has been a process that has taken about 18 months to consider. Last summer, the Gig Harbor City Council was also discussing marijuana in depth and opted for a year-long moratorium while deciding next steps.
Now, that moratorium is set to expire in October. Time is of the essence.
A proposed advisory vote in November failed 4-3 on the council. The Planning Commission’s recommendation also failed 4-3. The outright ban did not have the super majority to pass on the first reading. In the end, the commission’s recommendation was reconsidered and council member Michael Perrow proposed amendments that he had been discussing in previous meetings. The motion to bring the amended ordinance back at the meeting passed, 6-1, with council member Rahna Lovrovich being the only dissenting vote.
That sets up a two-option showdown at the Aug. 10 meeting. A decision must be reached in order to be in place by the moratorium’s expiration. The remaining options are the amended Planning Commission recommendation, which would allow marijuana uses with strict constraints or an outright ban.
Both council members Tim Payne and Lovrovich have previously said they favor an outright ban.
“I’ve not been bashful on this issue; I support a ban,” Payne said. “I simply do not believe this should be a substance sold in our community.”
Perrow has done extensive work on amending the commission’s recommendation.
Tedd Wetherbee, who has applied to open a retail shop in the city, asked the council during public comment to listen to Perrow’s ideas and take time to refine them.
“It’s just too important to do the quick thing,” Wetherbee said.
Among Perrow’s amendments is strengthening definitions such as making sure trails are included as parks and playgrounds used by the public, such as those in a homeowners association, are also included in buffer zones.
Council member Ken Malich said that the council should allow marijuana, which was voted on in 2012 as part of Initiative 502.
“I don’t like marijuana, I don’t think I’ll ever go to a marijuana shop… yet the people voted for I-502,” he said. “That makes it a state law, and I think we have to acknowledge that it’s a state law and we have to accommodate it in some way. I just think we have to go with the vote of the people.”
There were several options before the council on Monday night, and that led to a few shuffles in the agenda. Originally, the plan was to discuss an advisory vote first, which would not require a public hearing.
Instead, the council swapped places on the agenda and first discussed the option of either passing the Planning Commission’s recommendation for marijuana in the city and also discussing a first reading of an outright ban.
Those two issues allowed for public comment, and people lined up to give testimony. Much of the testimony had to do with the image of Gig Harbor and what allowing retail marijuana might do.
Bill McDonald said he’s worried that allowing marijuana uses and sales to pass would harm “the image that Gig Harbor has.”
But a few people begged to differ, and said retail marijuana would be strictly regulated and offer a safe alternative to the illegal trade.
“Saying yes or no isn’t saying yes or no to marijuana in Gig Harbor… you’re saying yes or no to legal marijuana or illegal marijuana and drug dealers,” said Mike Henery in the public hearing.