Spokane city leaders will meet today to begin planning for how to deal with businesses that want to sell state-sanctioned marijuana.
City Council members will meet with the city of Spokane Plan Commission to map out priorities for the next year, Councilman Jon Snyder said. Part of that discussion will be how to deal with the voter-approved Initiative 502, which allows residents 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
But the process to set up the state-sanctioned manufacture and sales of the drug will require changes to ordinances that govern everything, Snyder said.
“I will be arguing strongly that 502 issues have to be on (the commission’s) work plan for the next year,” Snyder said. “We have to be totally proactive on this. We don’t want to be caught napping. We want to make sure we have well-thought-out policies.”
On the West Plains, the cities of Medical Lake and Cheney recently passed moratoriums that prohibit those towns from issuing licenses to businesses seeking to sell marijuana, which under Initiative 502 would be regulated and licensed by the state Liquor Control Board. The state also must figure out how to collect the hefty 25 percent tax that the initiative sets on marijuana transactions.
Snyder said Spokane isn’t likely to follow suit because he said the issue is moot until the Liquor Control Board completes the rules. That process is not expected to be completed until next December.
“We don’t want it affecting one neighborhood inordinately more than another,” Snyder said. “I’m also interested in looking how we can cap those businesses in a logical way.”
The initiative already prohibits the future stores from operating within 1,000 feet of schools. “We have to decide if that is enough,” Snyder said.
Medical Lake City Administrator Doug Ross said his city officials followed a similar move by Cheney officials when they enacted a moratorium, which bars each city from accepting business licenses from those seeking to sell marijuana under the provisions set out by Initiative 502.
“You can’t just deny something just because you don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “State law gives city this legal avenue to make sure you don’t accept something that is contrary to future regulations.”
By contrast, Snyder said he wants Spokane officials to provide information to help businesses seeking to operate the stores.
“I’m hoping we can put together a frequently-asked-questions page for businesses that want to do this, so they have one source to get all the information they need,” he said.
Spokane attorney Frank Cikutovich, who successfully defended operators of medical marijuana dispensaries, said he applauds Spokane city leaders for starting the process now.
“That’s smart of them to do that, as long as they take the approach that this is the law and that we can benefit from it,” he said. “Regulate it. They can put them in industrial centers away from schools. Put one on each corner of the town … they could see a great economic impact.”
He pointed out that two years ago Spokane had 40 operating dispensaries selling medical marijuana to about 1,000 clients each. Cikutovich said he’s heard some folks worry that Spokane will become a magnet for Idaho residents coming to buy marijuana.
“Let’s invite them over. Everybody is going to Idaho to buy their liquor,” he said. “Let them come over and buy weed and we can make a fortune off of it.”