Puyallup residents voiced their opinions at a City Council meeting last week about the city reviewing regulations pertaining to marijuana-related businesses.
Many spoke out against allowing the businesses to operate within city limits during citizen comments, stating that the presence of the businesses would escalate crime and drug abuse within the city.
“We are having enough troubles and problems in this small town without adding pot shops,” Puyallup resident Jan Celski said at the meeting. “I know our police have more than enough to keep them busy … I feel putting a pot shop in Puyallup is very disrespectful to the citizens of Puyallup and the Puyallup Police Department.”
The controversial topic found its way onto the meeting’s agenda after a decision was made by the Council earlier this year to revisit the city’s prohibition on marijuana-related businesses, and indicated that the discussion should be scheduled for later in 2017 in the case of any changes in federal policy or enforcement under the Trump administration.
After Washington voters passed Initiative 502 in 2012, which legalized the production, processing and retail sale of marijuana, the Puyallup City Council passed a moratorium in 2013 that temporarily prohibited those same acts within Puyallup. From there, the Council researched and deliberated the issue for some time until passing an ordinance prohibiting the businesses from operating in Puyallup in 2014, but there remained opportunities for additional reviews.
Currently, there are two retail licenses issued by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) for separate retail marijuana businesses to operate in Puyallup, but they are prohibited by Puyallup Municipal Code from doing so.
The Puyallup City Council was asked to decide whether to continue to prohibit marijuana shops in Puyallup, adopt ordinances that would allow them to operate within city limits, or to continue deliberations.
“Puyallup voters approved (Initiative) 502 by a 50.5 to a 49.5 (percent) margin — not a landslide,” former Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner said during citizen comments. “We would be the only other city in Pierce County other than Tacoma allowing sales. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean we should.”
Others agreed. Jim Kastama, who was elected to Council District 1 Pos. 2 during the November general election, said that most shops are in “high crime” locations.
“The people of Puyallup need hope,” Kastama said. “We need to stand up and say we’re headed in a different direction. Not allowing marijuana sales is one of the many components in heading in the right way.”
Puyallup resident Giovanni Vendetti had a different point of view.
“This is an issue that has brought in $270 million in sales in Pierce County alone,” he said. “That’s pot that’s being taken out of the schools that kids are not dealing.”
Tenille Skog, a 14-year Puyallup resident, said she spoke with a friend whose daughter, an eighth-grader at Aylen Junior High, was shown marijuana in the bathroom by another student whose parents grow it.
“So to say it’ll keep it out of our schools? That’s ridiculous also,” she said. “To further increase drug use in our community, whether it’s South Hill or downtown Puyallup, is unacceptable as a resident.”
Council member Robin Farris mentioned some benefits of marijuana shops, including accessibility to marijuana for those experiencing pain and cities gaining revenue from the sales.
“Nobody is being careless about saying kids are getting marijuana, and that’s a good thing,” Farris said. “Kids are gonna get whatever drugs that they want ... I would really like to bring this back at a specific time and I think it should be in six months or sooner. We need to make a decision.”
Other Council members said they needed more information, specifically about possible revenue generated for the city and if the shops can reduce use of other opioids and drugs in the city. Council member Julie Door requested that statistics from the police department and school resource officer be made available.
“My question would be, is the usage going to increase if it’s allowed in the city limits?” Door said.
Mayor John Hopkins said that it’s likely, if the shops were allowed to operate in city limits, they wouldn’t be downtown. A marijuana shop is already scheduled to open out of the former Marty’s Food Center at 7924 River Road E., just outside of city limits, within the next two months.
“If we have a pot shop opening up just outside the city, why on earth would we want any inside the city?” Councilwoman Heather Shadko asked.
The Council did not make a decision about the shops and will likely do so in the new year as newly elected City Council members are seated.
“A decision needs to be made on this because we have license holders who are impacted,” Hopkins said.