Olympia advances recreational pot rules

The Olympia City Council took a step Tuesday toward approving zoning rules that would exempt new recreational marijuana businesses from the city’s one-year moratorium on pot-related establishments.

After holding a public hearing, the council directed staff to present an ordinance with the proposed pot rules for consideration at next week’s council meeting.

The proposed rules for recreational marijuana businesses are:

—Cannabis-related land uses would require a conditional use permit, which the city’s hearing examiner would review after a public hearing. Permit holders would pay a $3,000, one-time fee.

—Retail sales would be allowed only in the high density corridor-4 and general commercial zones. Proposed state regulations would allow Olympia two recreational pot stores. They would be allowed in an area between Martin Way and Pacific Avenue along Interstate 5 and in the area of Cooper Point Road and Black Lake Boulevard, near the Haggen supermarket.

—Production and processing of marijuana would be allowed only in the light industrial zone.

—Cannabis products could not be consumed on site.

—Retail hours would be limited from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

—Associated uses, such as a dance venue, would be prohibited.

—Marijuana businesses would have to maintain a security system, including video surveillance.

Marijuana advocates generally voiced support of the rules.

“Thank you for taking a reasoned approach,” said Ezra Eickmeyer of the Washington Cannabis Association.

Mayor Stephen Buxbaum remarked that “this is all new” and that the rules would be evolving. If the council adopts them, which would require two votes, they would be interim regulations. The city’s planning commission would take a closer look early next year, and the city could modify the rules.

Olympia is following in the footsteps of the Liquor Control Board, which is expected to adopt its proposed regulations this week. Those rules would take effect on Nov. 16, triggering a 30-day period for applications for state recreational pot licenses, city code enforcer Chris Grabowski said.

Because the state is allowing the city of Olympia just two recreational pot retail licenses, there is expected to be a lottery for those spots. The state would then conduct a background check on the winning applicants, a process that would likely be complete by mid-spring, Grabowksi said.

The Olympia City Council adopted the one-year moratorium on new pot-related establishments in May due “in part to the rapid proliferation of marijuana-associated land uses without sufficient time for staff to analyze appropriate conditions of approval of such land uses,” according to a city staff report.

If the council adopts the regulations, “that part of the moratorium concerning recreational retail, production, and processing will be repealed,” the staff report says.

But all other cannabis-related land uses, including medical marijuana collective gardens, would remain under the one-year moratorium.

Both the city and state are acting in response to Initiative 502, which a majority of voters approved last year, approving recreational marijuana at the state level. Federal law continues to forbid marijuana, but the Obama administration has indicated it will not enforce it in states where pot is legal.