Vancouver marijuana retail sales moratorium upheld

City attorney says it can be lifted before June 30 if zoning issues are resolved

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A moratorium on marijuana retail sales facilities was reaffirmed Monday by the Vancouver City Council.

By law, the moratorium, initially passed Sept. 23 as an emergency measure, had to have a public hearing within 60 days.

Two people testified Monday, both in favor of a shorter moratorium so people wanting to open stores wouldn’t be left waiting so long for a city permit.

While Councilors Jeanne Harris and Jack Burkman spoke up in favor of a shorter ban, they were in the minority.

The moratorium, set to end June 30, was reaffirmed with a 6-1 vote.

Harris voted against it.

City Attorney Ted Gathe reassured the council that if the details are worked out with regard to zoning, the moratorium can be lifted early.

As of now, potential marijuana retailers will have to wait until June 30 to apply for a city permit to sell it pursuant to Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults ages 21 and older.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board has capped the maximum number of pot shops statewide at 334 and said Clark County could be home to up to 15 marijuana retailers by the time the state starts doling out licenses. The state started accepting applications to grow, process and sell marijuana on Monday.

Six of those stores can be within Vancouver city limits. The moratorium gives the city more time to set zoning restrictions.

Elsewhere in county

The liquor control board, which considered population when allocating stores, approved another half-dozen shops for unincorporated Clark County, and one store apiece for Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground. County commissioners have enacted a moratorium, too.

The city has had an open house on Initiative 502 and established an informational Web page, which can be found under “issues/hot topics,” on www.cityofvancouver.us.

The city has received approximately 50 emails and telephone inquiries about I-502, according to a staff report from City Manager Eric Holmes that was distributed to the council on Monday.

Also under the city’s interim standards, people who receive state licenses to grow and process marijuana will be able to do so in light and heavy industrial districts. Those are the same zones where the council voted last year to limit medical marijuana collective gardens.

Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, but in August, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would not sue Washington, Colorado or other states that wish to legalize marijuana so long as it’s sufficiently regulated.