Clark County approved for 15 marijuana stores

By Tyler Graf and Stephanie Rice

Published:

Updated: September 4, 2013, 9:00 PM

 

Clark County could be home to up to 15 marijuana retailers by the time the state starts doling out licenses to legal pot sellers next spring.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board on Wednesday approved a series of supplemental rules to guide the adoption of a system to grow, process and sell marijuana, which included capping the maximum number of pot shops statewide at 334.

In Clark County, up to six shops would be allowed in Vancouver, with up to the same number allowed in unincorporated parts of the county, according to the liquor control board. Meanwhile, the board approved one store apiece for Battle Ground, Washougal and Camas.

Under the state’s guidelines, the most populous cities within each county are allocated a proportionate number of stores, in addition to at-large stores available to serve other areas of the county.

Brent Boger, a Washougal city councilman and a city attorney for Vancouver, said the stores’ eventual locations will depend on zoning, an issue cities have been reluctant to address until the liquor control board formed guidelines for growing and selling pot.

“The state has said they will follow our zoning ordinances,” Boger said.

While the state will start issuing licenses Dec. 1 to applicants who wish to grow, process or sell marijuana under Initiative 502, the Vancouver City Council has indicated it may slow down the process for people who wish to sell it within city limits.

On Sept. 23, the council will consider a temporary moratorium that would prohibit would-be sellers from applying for a city land-use permit until next summer, at the latest.

If the council approves the moratorium, a public hearing would be scheduled within 60 days.

Adopting the moratorium on retail facilities would give the city additional time to develop zoning standards, principal planner Bryan Snodgrass told the council last month.

The state already says the businesses must be at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, recreation centers, child care centers, public parks, transit centers, libraries and arcades.

Tentatively, retail sales of marijuana will be allowed in community and general commercial zones, so long as they meet the state’s 1,000-feet-setback requirements.

Also under the interim standards, people who receive state licenses to grow and process marijuana would be able to do so in light and heavy industrial districts.

In Washougal, a city that extended its moratorium on collective medical marijuana gardens last month, Boger said the city would likely enact a global zoning ordinance addressing both collective gardens and retail stores. The city’s six-month moratorium will expire in March.

Because of the state’s strict setback requirements, some cities will only have small slivers of land where pot retailers could go. Most of Battle Ground’s commercial district is within the 1,000-foot setback, Community Development Director Robert Maul said.

“At the end of day,” Maul said, “the state will have more control over the particular guidelines than we will.”

Only a small portion of land on West Main Street will be available to retailers, Maul said.

The state’s updated guidelines come less than a week after the Department of Justice announced it would not stop marijuana retailers from opening shops in Washington and Colorado. Voters in both states approved initiatives last year legalizing recreational marijuana.

Liquor control board Chairwoman Sharon Foster said Wednesday that the rules helped create a tightly regulated system for recreational marijuana.

Officials approved a number of safety measures and guidelines for consumers. They included new child-resistant packaging requirements, with dosage information and warnings on the package.

They also decided to cap marijuana production at 40 metric tons statewide. That figure is considered roughly 25 percent of the state’s total market for medical, recreational and black market marijuana.

No entity could have more than three licenses in each of the producer, processor and retail categories.

Public hearings on the revised rules will be held in early October. The board could adopt the revisions as early as Oct. 16. They would become available 31 days later.

Licenses could be issued by mid-December, with stores opening next spring.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.