City closer to pot-shop rules

Regulations could be in place by late March in Vancouver

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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The Vancouver City Council indicated Monday it will follow a voter-approved state law when it adopts regulations for state-licensed marijuana businesses.

A public hearing will be 7 p.m. March 3 at City Hall, 415 W. Sixth St.

If the council adopts the proposed ordinance, rules will be in place by late March. That's when the state anticipates approving licenses for growers and processors, principal planner Bryan Snodgrass told the council during a workshop on Monday.

Snodgrass said the state estimates licenses for retailers won't be ready until June.

In September, the city council adopted a six-month moratorium on marijuana retail facilities to allow more time to enact zoning rules.

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-foot-setback requirements.

Under the proposed ordinance, state-licensed sellers and producers would also have to obtain a city business license and keep "product and cash" in a locked safe.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilor Jack Burkman questioned two other rules endorsed by the city's planning commission. One says retailers must close by 11 p.m. and the other requires marijuana retailers to be at least 300 feet from each other.

Leavitt wanted examples of other types of businesses subject to such strict rules. The 300-feet rule was meant to discourage a cluster of businesses, Snodgrass said, but Burkman pointed out the city can have only six retail outlets.

Under the city's ordinance, growing and processing would be allowed in light and heavy industrial zones.

Initiative 502, which legalized possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and older, was approved in 2012.

The Liquor Control Board has capped the maximum number of pot shops statewide at 334. Clark County can have up to 15 marijuana retailers, including six in the unincorporated areas.

However, the county commissioners, who govern unincorporated areas, have said they won't allow marijuana businesses until the drug becomes legalized by the federal government. That stance was backed in an opinion by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who had been asked whether local jurisdictions have the authority to ban state-licensed sellers and producers.

The rest of Clark County stores would be in cities: six stores in Vancouver and one store apiece in Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground.

Camas and Washougal have ongoing moratoriums, while Battle Ground has not taken any action.