The Liberty Lake City Council, which passed a law last year ticketing minors who appear to be high in public, voted unanimously Tuesday to end a yearlong moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses.
But potential pot entrepreneurs said the zoning codes that will replace the ban are so stringent that only a single parcel of land south of Interstate 90 will be available for marijuana businesses.
Citing authority from the Washington attorney general’s office, the council representing the town of 8,000 people passed laws prohibiting pot businesses from locating within 1,000 feet of Spokane Transit Authority or school bus stops, churches and access points to the Centennial Trail. State law already prohibits recreational marijuana producers, processors and retailers from locating within 1,000 feet of day cares, schools, parks, libraries and some other public places.
Mayor Steve Peterson said the decision to pursue increased buffer zones, rather than an outright ban on pot businesses like ones in place in Chewelah and Deer Park, was made by the seven-member City Council, not him.
Peterson said the buffer zones are a compromise between a ban and not taking action at all, which would enable pot businesses to apply for licenses under the regulations enacted by the Washington Liquor Control Board, he said.
Liberty Lake police Chief Brian Asmus said he’s consulted with the City Council extensively on the issue, and prepared several maps of where marijuana businesses could open under the regulations.
“It’s not a ban at all,” Asmus said.
But several in attendance said it may as well be.
Tate Kapple, owner of recreational marijuana shop Cannabis and Glass off Market Street in Spokane, attended the special meeting of the Liberty Lake council to address marijuana zoning Tuesday night. Kapple, a former Liberty Lake resident, said he has been eying potential retail spots in the town based upon zoning laws. He pointed to a small undeveloped parcel, off Knox Avenue and McKenzie Lane, where marijuana businesses will be permitted under the zoning code.
“No one else in the state is using bus stops” for buffer zones, he said. Bus stops dot the intersections along Appleway Avenue to the south of the land on McKenzie, and to the north, the Centennial Trail’s path along the Spokane River will prohibit pot businesses from locating near the interstate.
But Asmus said other locations will be available for pot businesses, including some on Appleway and Country Vista Drive.
Three people testified before the council took its vote, which was scheduled to make sure zoning codes are in place before the yearlong moratorium, approved in January 2014, expired at the end of the month. The testimony grew a bit heated when William Shaw, a marijuana farmer north of Spokane, testified that the drug had no negative effect on the community, and the council’s moratorium was an “overreaction.”
Peterson interjected, saying he found trash from marijuana products, including the wrapping of a pot-laced cupcake, littered on Liberty Lake’s trails.
“They threw it out, on my trail,” Peterson said. “So don’t tell me that marijuana doesn’t impact my community.”
“Is marijuana packaging the only trash you find on your trails?” Shaw asked.
Peterson responded that he found some liquor bottles and other trash, and when Shaw began to ask another question, Peterson cut him off, saying, “I’m not here to debate with you.”
The Liberty Lake zoning codes for marijuana take effect next Tuesday. The city joins roughly 100 other local governments across the state that have passed some type of zoning laws for retail marijuana, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center, which has been tracking the Initiative 502 rollout in Washington.
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