Residents speak out on marijuana ordinance
MONROE - There was enough public interest in the city’s recreational marijuana ordinance at last week’s City Council meeting that members extended the public hearing one more week.
City staff had prepared a recreational marijuana ordinance for council approval at the Jan. 14 meeting, but after two hours of testimony, no action was taken.
The ordinance will set interim regulations for the zoning of marijuana-related businesses in the city.
For the time being, the moratorium on the processing, production and retail sale of marijuana or the approval of any marijuana-related business license still stands, city planner Paul Popelka said.
Sixteen people showed up to the Jan. 14 meeting to speak on the ordinance. Not every speaker represented a clear side, with some presenting conflicting views, but most seemed opposed to marijuana-related businesses coming into the city.
Some residents worried that despite the heavy state government control of these businesses, children may still get their hands on marijuana.
Local governments wanting to ban marijuana businesses got a favorable opinion from the state Attorney General Bob Ferguson last week. He said state law doesn’t prevent local governments from regulating or banning marijuana businesses. Ferguson also acknowledged that this issue will likely end up at the state Supreme Court.
Lonnie Little has four granddaughters who live in the Fryelands. She worries about parents letting their kids try marijuana similar to parents allowing their kids try a little sip of alcohol.
“When he was a child, they thought it was cute to give (my husband) a sip of beer or whatever when they had it,” Little said. “And to think that the adults aren’t going to do this to their children when they use marijuana is very naive.”
Dolly Leistin said she would rather see a marijuana-related business here than a big-box store.
“Would I like to see one of these stores here, one store here, yes; would I like to see Walmart here, no,” Leistin said.
The state allotted Monroe one recreational retail store business license. The state recently closed the license application window. Four people have applied to open a retail store in Monroe.
Leistin also said she admired Washington state for the manner in which alcohol has been strictly controlled and said the same will be true for marijuana.
“If you start listening to how the state wants to control this marijuana, it’s the same thing,” Leistin said. “It’ll be strictly enforced. The age of 21, and you’ll have to be carded, you’ll have to have these strict regulations that the alcohol stores have had to have. It’s not like a 16-year-old will be able to walk in and say, ‘Hey, I see someone smoking pot, can I get a joint.’”
Dale Taylor, a resident of Monroe since he was born here 81 years ago, said that he is worried development may be negatively affected by allowing pot production and retail sales in the city.
“A lot of young families since (my parents moved here) saw the same thing as them: a good little community to raise your kids in — safe,” Taylor said. “And a lot of small businesses have settled here for that same reason. We’re on the brink of a lot of growth both population-wise and business-wise, and I don’t think the element of legal or recreational marijuana business will enhance this community at all. I don’t think it’ll entice young families to settle here. They want their kids to grow up where they probably won’t be exposed to that.”
After public testimony ended, Councilman Kevin Hanford suggested the council extend the comment period.
“I think we need to make sure to give plenty of time to the citizens,” Hanford said.
The original moratorium was put in place in December 2011 and was extended in June 2012.
In November 2012, state voters approved Initiative 502, which legalized the adult use and possession of a small amount of recreational marijuana. Following this vote, the city adopted temporary zoning regulations for pot-related uses, which prohibit medical marijuana gardens and defined locations for licensed pot production, processing and retail facilities.
These temporary regulations, which may be approved at this week’s council meeting, allow the following: marijuana production in general industrial areas; marijuana processing in general industrial and light industrial; marijuana retail in general commercial and service commercial zones.
The planning commission recommended in August 2012 that the City Council approve the interim regulations as permanent.
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