Marijuana

Pierce council’s delay good news for marijuana businesses

Sign spinner Andy Borst works to attract customers last year to The Gallery, right, a retail marijuana business on Pacific Avenue South in Parkland. The Pierce County Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to send a proposed ban on such operations to the county Planning Commission.
Sign spinner Andy Borst works to attract customers last year to The Gallery, right, a retail marijuana business on Pacific Avenue South in Parkland. The Pierce County Council on Tuesday voted 4-3 to send a proposed ban on such operations to the county Planning Commission. dperine@thenewstribune.com

The Pierce County Council on Tuesday opened a window for marijuana businesses wanting to operate in outlying areas.

The council voted 4-3 to send a proposed ban on such operations to the county Planning Commission, setting up a delay that likely will allow pot shops to open once the county’s old ban lifts July 1.

Councilwoman Joyce McDonald proposed the new ban after April election results showed 52 percent of voters in the unincorporated areas don’t want the businesses.

She begrudgingly joined the majority Tuesday in voting to send her proposal to the Planning Commission rather than passing it outright.

“I normally would have voted no because I don’t want it to go to the Planning Commission,” McDonald said before voting. “I will support this going to the Planning Commission because I believe it’s at the very least a step in the right direction.”

The vote fell along party lines with the four council Republicans approving it and three Democrats in opposition.

Tacoma Democrats Connie Ladenburg and Rick Talbert said it was time to move on and let marijuana businesses open.

“We’re not here to litigate the issue of recreational marijuana,” Talbert said.

We don’t have a glut of applications. I’m assuming they’ll be coming in July 1 or not at all.

Melanie Halsan, special adviser to the Planning and Land Services director

Before the proposed ban reaches the Planning Commission, it first must pass through County Executive Pat McCarthy. She has up to 10 working days to decide to sign, veto or do nothing with the proposal.

If she waits several days to act, the proposed ban likely won’t make the Planning Commission’s June 28 meeting. The group’s next meeting after that will be July 26.

If McCarthy vetoes the proposal, the council would need five votes to override the action, and that level of support appears unlikely.

Marijuana business owners can apply for a permit to operate legally once the old ban expires July 1. Five businesses are scheduled for a hearing examiner review July 6 and could be allowed to open if the examiner approves their applications.

The hearing examiner has final say, but a preliminary review by county planning staff shows the applications are complete, said Melanie Halsan, special adviser to the Planning and Land Services director.

Halsan knew of at least three other marijuana businesses that previously expressed interest in applying for a permit.

“We don’t have a glut of applications,” she said. “I’m assuming they’ll be coming in July 1 or not at all.”

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board allocated 17 licenses for marijuana stores in Pierce County’s unincorporated areas.

April election results by precinct

Overall, unincorporated Pierce County voted against allowing marijuana production, processing or sales in the outlying areas, but election results showed pockets of support for allowing the businesses to operate.

Zoom in and click for results.

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