The Pullman Planning Commission appeared to reach a consensus Wednesday night that the city should follow the state’s lead and make many more areas of the city open to marijuana retailers.
While Washington state law initially required marijuana retailers to be 1,000 feet from any library, school, recreation center, playground, day care, minor arcade or transit center, the law has changed to 100 feet, except for schools and public playgrounds, but cities must adopt those rules for them to take effect.
The commission also agreed to lift all advertising restrictions on marijuana retail businesses, so they can display the same signage as any other business.
Planning Director Pete Dickinson said a date for a public hearing will be set to offer the public a chance to comment on the commission’s decision before it goes before the Pullman City Council for adoption.
Dickinson told the Daily News that if the rules were adopted, Pullman’s downtown, Adam’s Mall and much of North Grand Avenue would be opened up to recreational and medical marijuana stores.
Currently, Pullman’s two recreational marijuana stores are on the 1300 block of Southeast Bishop Boulevard, and the city’s third store is under construction on the same block.
Dickinson presented three maps to the commission, one showing the current zoning restrictions, one displaying the new decreased buffer zones and another including a 500-foot buffer zone around daycare facilities.
Dickinson said he presented that particular map because he heard from residents wanting to keep a larger buffer zone around daycares.
Commission member Liza Morris questioned why marijuana would be restricted any more than alcohol, and said not only should the city adopt the less restrictive rules, they should allow marijuana retailers in all three commercial zones, like businesses that sell alcohol.
As of now, marijuana retailers are restricted to the C3 zone, a general commercial area that often require motorized transportation, where C1 is mostly for foot traffic.
Dickinson said some alcohol businesses in C1 allow for consumption on the premises, while marijuana retailers are only allowed to sell for off-premise use.
He told the Daily News C1 zones are mostly near the Washington State University campus, and include spaces like Valhalla and The Coug.
Most commissioners agreed marijuana stores should be allowed in all commercial zones.
“If it is a commercial district, it should be fair and opened up for people to put their business there,” commission member Marcus Crossler said,
Commission chair Dave Gibney said he had been in favor of the 500-foot buffer zone, but after seeing the maps he preferred the 100-foot buffer zones for marijuana retailers, and all commercial zones, too.
Commission member Brent Carper, who disagreed with putting stories in the C1 zone, said he agreed with Morris about the 100-foot buffer and was only open to the 500-foot daycare buffer, if some kind of evidence or public testimony about the necessity for it presented itself.
“Without that kind of evidence I’m more comfortable doing the 100-foot buffer,” Carper said.
Getting more WSU students downtown is a goal of the commission, member Scott Hodge said, and putting stores downtown would bring students with them.
Gibney agreed, “I don’t know why we would want to restrict retail stores in our downtown area.”
Even if the commission recommends the rule changes to the Pullman City Council, it wouldn’t mean anything if the City Council chooses to extend or make permanent the six-month moratorium on new marijuana retail stores they adopted in November. They made that move after the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board allotted the city two more stores to account for the increased clientele from the merging of the highly regulated recreational marijuana market with the largely unregulated medical marijuana market.
Dickinson said Wednesday he is considering asking the council to extend the moratorium several more months to see how other cities are affected by the new rules.
The recreational marijuana store set to open for business on the Pullman-Moscow Highway at the old Wawawai Canyon Winery is in the county and doesn’t count toward Pullman’s five allotted stores.
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