Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hearing today on city rules for recreational and medical marijuana businesses

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2013 at 11:55 AM

Pot is all over the news lately.

The feds say they won't sue Colorado and Washington to prevent the implementation of recreational marijuana markets. The Liquor Control Board released its latest draft rules for the state's new market, including limits on how many marijuana stores it will license and how much marijuana should be produced across the state.

Then, in a historic hearing yesterday on Capitol Hill, lawmakers and law enforcement discussed how to fix a major issue looming over legal marijuana markets: What do business owners do with their cash? (Banks are wary of taking money considered "dirty" since the drug remains illegal at the federal level, and cash-only businesses could be targets of crime.)

NPR's On Point spent an hour talking about it, and even John McCain now says "maybe we should legalize it."

Meanwhile, in Spokane, city leaders are bracing for the influx of more marijuana and trying to rein in the local medical marijuana market. Medical marijuana has remained largely unregulated in Washington, which has led to raids and suspicions that many medical users are in fact using recreationally. If that's true, say some state and local lawmakers, they have to make sure the untaxed, unregulated medical market isn't undermining I-502 efforts altogether.

The city is limited on how much it can regulate recreational marijuana beyond what the liquor control board is already doing, but it is considering outlawing recreational businesses in areas of the city zoned "CC1." Read: light commercial areas like Garland near its intersection with Monroe.

For medical marijuana, the city has more power. According to the current draft of an ordinance the city council will consider in coming weeks, the city plans to establish new licensing and regulations for medical marijuana businesses. Among them, the city will hold a public hearing before issuing any license to a "medical cannabis collective" and such business can't be within 1,000 feet of another collective garden, a state-licensed recreational business or places like parks, libraries and child care centers. (See a zoning map of where marijuana businesses may be allowed and the full ordinance at the bottom of this post.)

A Plan Commission hearing on these rules is scheduled for today at 4 pm in City Council Chambers (808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.) before the ordinance heads to a council vote.

Read the Liquor Control Board's I-502 FAQ here. Get high on even more pot news here.

Where medical and recreational marijuana businesses may be allowed in Spokane (the council is considering removing areas designated CC1):

The latest draft of the ordinance that will regulate local medical and recreational marijuana:

UPDATE: Testimony at today's hearing, largely from the local medical cannabis community, favored fewer restrictions. The Plan Commission agreed, recommending the city council allow medical and recreational marijuana businesses to open in CC1 areas, like Garland. The commission also opposed three extra restrictions the council considered placing on medical collectives, keeping them 1,000 feet from drug treatment facilities, other medical operations and recreational marijuana businesses. The commission's recommendations will now go to the council for a vote, when more changes could be made.

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Heidi Groover

Heidi Groover is a staff writer at the Inlander, where she covers city government and drug policy. On the job, she's spent time with prostitutes, "street kids," marriage equality advocates and the family of a 16-year-old organ donor...