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Pacific ponders potential pot purveryors
The City of Pacific has taken a wait-and-see position on new businesses seeking to retail, produce or process marijuana within city limits.
On Aug. 12 the City Council voted to extend by six months a moratorium that bans pot businesses from opening within the city. It did that to give Pacific's administration time to take its cue from other Washington municipalities also struggling to cope with the fallout from the passage of I-502.
More than 55 percent of voters statewide voted yes on the initiative last November, legalizing recreational use of marijuana in Washington State.
"We're waiting until the dust settles," said Mayor Leanne Guier. "We're looking to some of the bigger cities that have the staff to delve into this. We're waiting to see what comes from the lawsuit in Kent. That will help guide us in what we can do."
Guier said Pacific is closely monitoring the ongoing legal battle between Kent and the Herbal Choices Caregivers dispensary. The two parties have been duking it out for more than two years in King County Superior Court and in state courts. The City maintains that the business is illegal under its zoning laws.
Pacific is also waiting to see what happens at the state level, where the Washington State Liquor Board is finally expected to decide in December what the future of pot businesses in the state will look like.
"The state hasn't even come up with the rules yet, they postponed it," Guier said. "How can they expect the cities to deal with it? So we went ahead and extended our moratorium."
According to Interim Public Works Director Ken Barnett, the moratorium is a stop-gap measure, allowing the City to draft an ordinance that lays down the guidelines for any future marijuana businesses within the city.
"We're trying to get an ordinance that is fair for everybody involved, so we're doing another six-month moratorium to make sure we cover all the bases," Barnett said. "The state is saying it's going to be December before they have a determination. This just helps us keep things at the status quo right now."
Pacific has two medical marijuana dispensaries, Pacific Green Collective and Chronic Solutions, open in the same business complex on Stewart Road.
Pacific Green Collective, which obtained its business license during a lapse in the moratorium, has been in business for more than a year.
Barnett said legal negotiations are underway with the business, but he declined to reveal specifics.
Chronic Solutions opened in May as a nonprofit business, an entity that is not required to obtain a business license from the City.
"I was just recently made aware of (Chronic Solutions') presence," Barnett said, adding that he planned to pay Chronic Solutions a visit.
"Typically, I'll pay them a visit and explain that they're not allowed to operate in the city," Barnett said.
If the situation is not settled to the City's liking, Barnett said, the usual procedure would be a follow-up letter. But if further legal action is required, he would notify the city attorney.
Despite the presence of the businesses, the City isn't hellbent on shutting them down.
"We're not being aggressive right now," Guier said.
Personally, Guier said, she's torn about the town's future openness to marijuana businesses.
"I'm really undecided on it," she said. "If it's not around any schools or around any daycares, and there is not easy access, and if there are restrictive guidelines, and it's for medical marijuana use, I believe there is a need for it. I honestly believe there is a necessity for it for chronic pain.
"I even asked our police department if they've had any issues there, and they haven't," she said. "One of the things I've personally thought about, and I know the citizens wonder about, is the crime rate. And then I'm concerned about how easy it is for people to get it. Are people getting it that don't need it? I don't really want to see recreational use, but then how different is it from having a liquor store? I'm really torn."