County planning commission recommends adoption of marijuana ordinance

While other local governments consider limiting marijuana businesses to industrial areas or banning them outright, Grays Harbor County officials are considering an ordinance that would treat marijuana producing, processing and retail businesses like any other business.

The Grays Harbor County Planning Commission considered the ordinance at a Tuesday meeting, and voted to recommend the measure to county commissioners — with very limited discussion from planning commission members.

The three county commissioners will have the final say. The recommended ordinance will go before them in coming weeks. A date has yet to be set.

John Kliem, a planning consultant hired by the county to develop the ordinance, said the restrictions should be relatively simple to execute, given that they were modeled after existing county code.

“There’s nothing really earth-shattering here, we tried to work with what you already had,” Kliem said.

If approved, the ordinance will allow marijuana production and processing as a permitted use in agricultural, long-term agricultural, light industrial, Satsop development and some general development zones. Marijuana retail would be a permitted use in general commercial zones.

Marijuana retail would be allowed as a conditional use for some general development zones and the Lake Quinault zone.

“We tried to design the ordinance so that production, processing and retail wouldn’t be in any residential area,” Kliem said.

County officials began the process of creating marijuana regulations last year, assembling a task force composed of local marijuana stakeholders, health officials, law enforcement and other members of the community to discuss concerns and desires associated with a legal recreational marijuana market. The group also discussed medical marijuana, and a related ordinance will likely be drafted in coming months, Kliem said.

The state began accepting applications for marijuana businesses last fall, and licenses will likely be awarded in about a month. The county’s temporary marijuana moratorium expired in December.

“There’s a real immediate call-to-action to get this ordinance on the table,” Kliem said.

Of the seven present members of the planning commission, only Alan Gozart voted against recommending the ordinance to the county commissioners. He said he doesn’t support marijuana legalization in Washington — especially since it’s still illegal federally.

“It’s a little tough to support an ordinance that goes against federal law,” Gozart said.


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