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Auburn man says moratorium would negate narrow application window for pot-related businesses

Last November more than 55 percent of Washington state's voters voted yes on Initiative 502, legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in the state.

The Auburn City Council on Sept. 14 slapped an initial moratorium of up to one year on the acceptance and processing of applications for business licenses, permits or approvals for marijuana, cannibis-related businesses inside city limits.

It would give them time, council members said after the vote, time to review the laws, time for council subcommittees to review all the issues engendered by contradictions between state and federal guidelines.

Monday night City officials heard what residents had to say about the moratorium. The public hearing was required within 60 days of the passage of the moratorium.

One Auburn resident spoke up.

"Within 30 days Initiative 502 will allow you to apply for a license to operate a retail operation to grow or produce," said Jeremy Reidt, a master gardener associated with Seattle-based Cloner's Market. The Cloner's Market's website bills the organization as "Seattle's First Locally Owned Collective Garden Made For Growers by Growers!" It advertises varieties of weed with colorful names like "White Smurf", "Platinum Girl Scout Cookies", "Pit Bull" "Lavender Cheese" and "Connie Chung".

"It's a very small window, 30 days," Reidt said, "and you guys having a moratorium in place for one year would negate that one-year license that you would apply for, and pay $1,000 for, just for the application. Are you guys going to have another hearing or reopen the issue within 60 days after 502 goes into effect and begins handing out licenses? ... I'm personally feeling the one-year moratorium is going to contradict what the state's going to allow us to do in the next 30 days."

The language of the moratorium actually gives the City Council up to a year; it doesn't mandate that it take a year. Council members could extend the moratorium or they could decide to do something earlier than that.

"It would also automatically expire upon the (City's) regulation being adopted," Auburn City Attorney Dan Heid said of the moratorium.

The Council acted in September, nearly three weeks after U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the federal government would allow Washington's and Colorado's new marijuana laws to go into effect.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Backus said at the time that "the state is saying one thing, federal laws are saying another, but they're also saying that they will turn a blind eye at the federal level. We want to ensure that, as the City of Auburn, we are protecting ourselves and at the same time doing a full review in the committees. We want to ensure that if we allow the processing of applications for marijuana-cannibis-related businesses, that we do so in such a manner as to allow for full review and information."

The City also wants time to learn from other Washington cities struggling to cope with the fallout from the passage of I-502, said Councilmember Largo Wales.

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