Marijuana shop stirs public, ban extended
SNOHOMISH — Last week’s recreational marijuana public hearing got heated, and an entrepreneur who wants to open shop in town faced glares by the public.
The hearing was on lifting a moratorium restricting marijuana businesses from opening within city limits.
A swell of people stomped their feet against lifting the ban, and the council voted 4-3 last week to extend the moratorium another six months, meaning no business can open in Snohomish. Monroe has a similar ban.
A would-be shop owner who received a state license to open a marijuana retail shop at 202 Ave. D. The owner is Lake Stevens resident Josh Shade.
The location does not meet the city’s current zoning standards but he can relocate, city planning director Owen Dennison said.
Shade was adamant last week he would locate in town somewhere when the moratorium ends. He spoke out at the City Council meeting.
Weeks before the vote, a majority of council members seemed receptive to lifting the restriction. Others seemed to be on the fence, while Councilwoman Lynn Schilaty is the loudest opponent to lifting the ban.
Mayor Karen Guzak had a change of mind last week.
“I am switching my vote because, I actually support this ordinance,” but she said she wants to keep the moratorium in place to watch other cities handle marijuana businesses. Washington’s first marijuana businesses are set to open this summer.
The minority of three council members who voted toward discarding the moratorium were Councilmen Tom Hamilton, Michael Rohrscheib and Derrick Burke.
Store owner Josh Shade’s presence and statement to council were met with glares and unwelcoming comments from other residents throughout and after the public hearing.
“The (state Liquor Control Board) wants this to work, that’s their job, and they want to open up these stores,” Shade, a Lake Stevens resident, said. “I would love to come to Snohomish, I love this town. I chose Snohomish because I like Snohomish. Just because you don’t let recreational marijuana in, there’s going to still be marijuana here. The only difference is, it’s going to be obtained illegally.”
The only other resident who supported lifting the ban was council critic Morgan Davis, who said that “one retail (marijuana) shop surely isn’t going to corrupt the community.” He also compared the shop to a state liquor store, since essentially, the people who can purchase the products must be age 21 or older as mandated by the state.
More than 25 outraged and upset residents spoke against lifting the ban.
Some even were moved to tears at the idea of a marijuana store coming to town.
The majority of “anti-marijuana” speakers were parents of teenagers, and a few school district employees. The majority of them touched on worrying about underage drug use.
One speaker, resident Mike Snow said, “it’s our job to educate and protect our children,” and said a store like this sends the message that drugs are the “new norm.”
“I have spent the last 13 years, since the day my daughter started kindergarten and she’s graduating this year, volunteering in the schools, volunteering in the community,” Pam Elliot said. “This is just not a good idea. I just read some Yale study that (marijuana) is in fact, a gateway drug. To me, don’t tell me that people who are addicted to heroin and crack haven’t smoked pot. It’s just not a good idea for our city and we should not encourage it,” turning to Shade in the audience: “You’re, I’m sure very lovely, but you don’t even live in Snohomish. ... I think it’s a poor idea for our kids or a good look for our city.”
Tabitha Lewis, another concerned mother, said her 14-year-old son was recently approached by kids he knew from school pressuring him to buy marijuana while walking home from school. He declined.
In previous hearings about lifting the recreational marijuana ban, almost no one spoke up. The concentrated crowd of almost 30 people was unusual.
Shade, the would-be store owner, added that he was not a street drug dealer but a businessman.
“If I secure a location here, I’ll just open. I’m in retail.”
Shade called the opponents a vocal minority outside of the meeting.
“I understand completely where the City Council is going. This is a big decision. But the plain fact is, their constituents voted. The vocal minority should not rule.”
In the 2012 elections, 54 percent of Snohomish residents voted in favor of Initiative 502, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults and got the ball rolling for regulated marijuana growing and stores.
The vote tally in Snohomish was similar to the state result of 55 percent approving the measure.