Politics & Government

Tacoma City Council sorting out details on new cannabis rules

Charles "Carlos Sativa" Alexander photographs buds of marijuana pending results of judging at the NW Cannabis Classic trade show at the Tacoma Armory on Aug. 29, 2015.
Charles "Carlos Sativa" Alexander photographs buds of marijuana pending results of judging at the NW Cannabis Classic trade show at the Tacoma Armory on Aug. 29, 2015. Staff photographer

Tacoma City Council members are close to passing a new law regulating retail cannabis stores, but it may take them another month to sort out the details.

On Tuesday, they sounded divided on a number of sticking points that have bedeviled city employees and the Planning Commission for much of the past year.

Those questions include whether the city should place a local cap on the number of retail marijuana stores it allows to do business, whether it should require cannabis shops to be separated by at least 500 feet and whether Tacoma should permit groups of up to four people to grow marijuana together at private residences.

City planners and volunteers on the Planning Commission reached different recommendations on all of those issues in a report they gave to the council this week.

Other changes could require marijuana stores to have clear windows, and the city may compel them to show a sign outside indicating that they are legal businesses.

In the first public meeting on that report, council members did not say how they’d vote, but several of them suggested they favor placing a citywide limit on retail marijuana stores.

Doing so would give the council a check on any decision from the state Liquor and Cannabis Board to raise the number of retail marijuana licenses it allocates to Tacoma.

“At least a cap gives us some control over who’s legitimate and who isn’t,” Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.

The state allows up to 16 retail cannabis stories to operate in Tacoma.

So far, nine have retail licenses but more than 20 other shops catering to medical marijuana clients are believed to be in business. Some of the medical marijuana stores are due to receive state retail licenses early this summer; the others would be forced to close down.

The council is scheduled to take votes on the marijuana regulations on May 10 and May 24. The ordinance would take effect June 5, about a month before the state is expected to begin enforcing a law aimed at culling medical marijuana dispensaries that operate on the fringes of state law.

The council in January placed a moratorium on issuing business licenses for marijuana-related shops. That moratorium would be lifted when the new law takes effect.

Attorney Jay Berneberg told the council Tuesday evening that several medical marijuana clinics have state licenses to convert to recreational shops and are awaiting city approval. He said they're losing out on $100,000 a day in revenue.

“They want to get open and they want to get going,” he said.

Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646, @TNTMilitary

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