The result of Tacoma’s five-month moratorium on new marijuana stores could be local regulations that closely resemble state law.
The City Council this week took the first of two votes on rules limiting the number of pot shops to 16, permitting them to cluster near each other and allowing groups of up to four people to grow cannabis together in residential collectives.
Those points all mirror state regulations on licensed marijuana shops.
The council chose a different path on two points.
It opted to require all recreational cannabis stores to also receive endorsements allowing them to sell medical marijuana. That’s intended to ensure that ill people will have access to untaxed medical marijuana after the closure of gray-market medical marijuana stores that have proliferated outside the boundaries of both the state’s medical marijuana law and the 2012 initiative voters passed legalizing recreational cannabis.
The council also chose narrower “buffers” that compel pot shops to be situated at least 500 feet from parks, child care centers, jails and libraries. State regulations set buffers at 1,000 feet, unless local governments chose to lower them. Buffers around schools and playgrounds cannot be altered by local ordinances.
This is about getting these black market, unregulated stores that are not paying taxes off the streets and making sure we build faith in the new market.
Councilman Ryan Mello
Tacoma’s regulations are on track to take effect June 5, about a month before the deadline for medical marijuana stores to obtain a state license or shut down. The council must approve the ordinance one more time, on May 24, before it becomes law.
When the new law starts, Tacoma will lift its moratorium and begin approving business licenses for several medical marijuana stores that have received state permission to become recreational shops.
“They want to get open and they want to get going,” attorney Jay Berneburg told the council at a meeting last month, estimating that the stores are missing out on as much as $100,000 of revenue every day.
Tacoma also is developing an enforcement plan to close down unlicensed stores. It should be offered to the council next month, a city spokeswoman said.
“This is about getting these black market, unregulated stores that are not paying taxes off the streets and making sure we build faith in the new market,” Councilman Ryan Mello said.
We have rules from the state. We have a framework from the city. It’s legal now. Voters have said yes to it repeatedly. Let’s do the right thing and implement it.
Mayor Marilyn Strickland
Tacoma had as many as 60 of the medical marijuana shops last year. State regulations allow the city to have a total of 16 licensed stores going forward, although that number could be increased by the state Liquor and Cannabis Board.
Council members had a range of options over the past month as they debated local marijuana rules. The city Planning Commission and city planning staff members gave the council different recommendations on how many stores the city should allow and whether they should be allowed to be located close to each other.
The city law could be adjusted in the future to allow more stores or set more conditions. Mello, for instance, wants the city to consider a merit-based system for awarding business licenses that may go further than the background checks the state carries out on marijuana retailers.
“We have rules from the state. We have a framework from the city. It’s legal now. Voters have said yes to it repeatedly. Let’s do the right thing and implement it,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.