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Kenmore City Council vote to extend moratorium on marijuana business again

Father and son Levi Shade, left, and Joshua Shade, right, sell medical marijuana together. Joshua hopes to open a shop in Kenmore.  - Sarah Kehoe, Bothell/Kenmore Reporter
Father and son Levi Shade, left, and Joshua Shade, right, sell medical marijuana together. Joshua hopes to open a shop in Kenmore.
— image credit: Sarah Kehoe, Bothell/Kenmore Reporter

Medical Marijuana business owner Joshua Shade is losing around $10,000 a day in revenue as his store in Kenmore sits empty. He is awaiting city staff to make zoning regulations.

"I don't understand why they aren't listening to their own constituents," Shade said. "How incompetent can they be that they can't figure out simple zoning for a retail store? I feel like they just don't want this kind of store and are stalling the process as long as possible."

On April 28, Kenmore City Council adopted an ordinance to extend the moratorium on marijuana businesses through Nov. 7. The council extended the moratorium in September 2013 as well.

Nigel Herbig was the only council member voting against extending the moratorium.

"The people of Kenmore spoke loud and clear on this issue when they voted in favor of I-502 with over 60 percent of the vote in the 2012 general election," Herbig said. "Legalizing marijuana and authorizing the legal sale of recreational marijuana received more votes than me or any of my colleagues on the council have ever received when we were on the ballot and we need to respect the will of our voters in this matter."

Herbig addressed concerns from the audience regarding the belief that marijuana stores will increase crime.

"I don't buy it," he said. "I've read through the restrictions put on recreational marijuana businesses by I-502, and I just don't see how one of these businesses will be any worse than a liquor store or a smoke shop. Cities banning these businesses are also creating a vacuum for drug dealers to continue operating in."

Herbig says he supports the idea of the city placing regulations around marijuana stores.

"I am fully supportive of making sure we have proper zoning for I-502 businesses," he said. "In fact, I voted in favor of extending our interim zoning regulations against marijuana businesses locating in our residential zones."

The city has a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses under Initiative 502. It also has a moratorium on medical marijuana collective gardens and an interim regulation preventing marijuana businesses, under Initiative 502, from locating in the city’s single-family residential zones.

"The moratorium is going on because it's all inflexed, there are no firm answers from the Washington State Liquor Board on a lot of things," said Laurie Anderson, senior planner for the city of Kenmore. "The city council wants to feel comfortable before they move ahead."

The moratorium on applying for marijuana businesses was imposed on June 24, 2013, but the city expressed that it did not have enough information to make an informed decision on zoning regulations yet. The city has been waiting for some of the issues around recreational marijuana and medical marijuana collective gardens to be resolved before deciding how to proceed with regulations.

"This is an ever-changing landscape and the rules have been in inflex for a year," Anderson said. "Over the past months, we have been waiting for the liquor control board to issue their final rules, waiting for the outcome of several court cases, waiting to hear about the federal government’s response to the issue, waiting for the outcome of the retailer lottery and resolution of any appeals of that process, waiting for the state legislature to address integration of the medical marijuana and recreational marijuana delivery systems."

Kenmore was not assigned a retail outlet by the Washington State Liquor Control Board, so the 10 applicants had to participate in the lottery for the 11 King County “at-large” retail licenses. The business Shade is hoping to open in Kenmore, Shade's Green Emporium, is 12th on the Washington state lottery ranking, which was released by the liquor control board Friday.

The liquor control board says the process is extremely secure and will determine who gets a retail license to sell pot legally in Washington.

Rick Garza, director of the liquor control board, said in a statement this month that the process works essentially like the Washington State Lottery.

The liquor control board hired Kraght-Snell, a Seattle firm, to serve as the accountant for the Washington lottery.

There's a total of 334 retail licenses in the lottery for the entire state. A list of pre-screened applicants were assigned a number by Kraght-Snell. Then, those numbers were chosen randomly by Washington State University's Social and Economic Sciences Research Center, not by the liquor control board. Washington State Treasurer's Office was on hand to witness the lotteries, according to Garza.

Initially, the state received more than 2,000 applications to sell pot legally. But a large percentage failed to complete the application properly. Roughly 1,500 applicants were a part of the lottery. The winners of the retail license still have to pass an intense background check.

"There's a big chance there will be many appeals to the lottery system," Anderson said. "The whole process is taking awhile."

The public was invited to give their input during the city council meeting Monday. Shade spoke to the council about his frustration with their decision, stressing he paid $20,000 in licensing and application fees.

"It's just messed up that people who put in money for licensing fees are having to sit and wait on this and watch their money go down the drain," Shade said. "I really will consider suing the city of Kenmore if it has to come to that."

Shade has a medical marijuana business on State Route 9 in Woodinville called Woodinville Quality Collective, which he opened in November 2013. He says Snohomish County tried to shut him down.

"There weren't any zoning laws here yet and so if there are no laws, you are in violation by default," Shade said. "We hired a lawyer and lobbyist and got everyone to sign a document asking the county to stop this. We ended up applying for a zoning permit and being able to keep our store."

Shade mentioned he wanted to open in Kenmore because he grew up on the Eastside and likes the area. He believes the traffic resulting from the tolling of the 520 Bridge will be good for business.

"I believe my business will thrive in Kenmore," he said. "And this is what people want, the voters have spoken."

Around 66 percent of Kenmore residents voted to legalize marijuana in Washington state.

Shade and his family are the only people to apply for a license in Kenmore.

"When I win the lottery I'm just going to open my doors no matter what's going on with the city council in Kenmore," he said. "If they arrest me for selling something that is legal, they arrest me and i'll deal with that."

Anderson said her staff has collected questions concerning zoning regulations put in writing by the city council and expects to bring answers to the council around June.

"The city council started discussions on April 28 about how to regulate recreational marijuana businesses and medical marijuana collective gardens," she said. "The council asked that I provide additional information and I expect to be doing that in the next couple of months."

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