Pacific hosts public hearing for marijuana ordinance July 16

Pacific Councilmember Stacy May Knudtson. - File Photo
Pacific Councilmember Stacy May Knudtson.
— image credit: File Photo

Like it or not, legal marijuana is here.

This past Tuesday retail pot stores throughout Washington threw open their doors and began doling out the first sacks of legal smoke since the Marijuana Tax Act criminalized cannabis in 1937.

For many communities, questions still cloud the issue, questions about both the potential benefits and the headaches legal marijuana retail stores and processing and production businesses may bring to their doorsteps.

In Pacific, the City's administration and council have drawn up an ordinance aimed at answering those very questions. Now, they are looking to residents to tell them what they think about it.

"There are three different components," said Councilmember Stacy May Knudtson. "It's not just the retail, it's medical as well as processing and production."

On July 16 the council hosts a public hearing, offering residents a chance to weigh in with their concerns or thoughts about pot businesses in their city. Residents may also speak with representatives of the administration and council at this weekend's Pacific Days celebration, July 11-13 at Pacific Park.

"We'll all have a button on that says, 'Ask Me' with a marijuana leaf on it," Knudtson said. "This is the time for residents to be heard. I really want to hear how people feel. This is the chance for them to voice their opinions. It's going to be really interesting."

Right now the City of Pacific has a moratorium in place banning any marijuana businesses – retail or medical – from opening in the city. Taking advantage of various loopholes in the law, however, several dispensaries have found ways to open in the last two years.

Pacific Green Collective and Chronic Solutions, medical marijuana stores adjacent to each other in a business complex on Stewart Road in the Pierce County portion of Pacific, have operated for more than a year.

Pacific Green Collective, a medical marijuana dispensary, obtained its business license during a lapse in the City's moratorium, which the council has renewed several times.

Chronic Solutions, also a medical marijuana purveyor, opened in May of 2013, taking advantage of a loophole that does not require a business license from the city.

Two other storefronts in the business complex also indicate marijuana businesses operating, or ready to operate.

Knudtson said the City hopes to block unregulated stores from cropping up in the future.

"We don't want another moratorium," Knudtson said. "We want rules in place so we can go forward as a City. We want some concrete rules."

Although the actual ordinance the council anticipates voting on this month was unavailable at press time, officials expect that it will allow regulated retail shops and production and processing businesses.

Medical marijuana businesses, however, which are unregulated, could find themselves outlawed.

"I'm so torn because I legitimately see the benefits of medical marijuana," Knudtson said. "My sister has lupus and benefits from it. I appreciate that, and that it's more affordable for people who may not be able to afford it. But I don't like that it's unregulated."

Knudtson continued:

"When I get my medicine, it says 'take one, twice a day'," Knudtson said. "I'd like to see those types of protections in place for medical marijuana and edibles. I think we need more regulation, and I think the state needs to weigh in on the edibles and what we need to do with them."

Knudtson said the key to allowing retail and production/processing in Pacific is to cut down on the criminal element.

"I want to see that it doesn't continue to be lucrative for the black market," she said. "And I'd like to see some of the taxation that occurs coming to the City. I don't think it's fair that the state gets all that."

Pacific unveiled its new proposed marijuana ordinance this past Wednesday at a special planning commission meeting. The ordinance was unavailable before press time.

The council hosts a public hearing at 7 p.m., July 16 in the City Gymnasium at 305 Milwaukee Ave.

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