Where to put cannabis shops dominates discussion in Poulsbo

With state laws on the books for medical and recreational marijuana, the city of Poulsbo is proceeding to establish its own rules for the drug.

The controversial conversations, so far, have not centered on use of marijuana, rather, where to put it.

Wednesday was the first part to a public hearing on Poulsbo's interim regulations on the placement of marijuana facilities within the city. The city will hold a followup hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.

Only two people rose to speak on the topic Wednesday. Even then, they spoke largely to facilities for medical, rather than recreational, marijuana.

"I am before you in a quest for a collective garden in Poulsbo," said Rick Doyle, co-owner of Herbal Healing in Gorst. "I haven't been able to find a location pursuant to the guidelines set out by your body."

"I think the people of this area would benefit greatly by having close access (to medical marijuana)," he added.

Poulsbo's interim regulations are in effect for six months, starting on Aug. 14, after which the city council can take further action to solidify the legislation.

As the regulations stand, zoning will only allow for marijuana facilities — recreational or medicinal — in one area within the city limits; a region at the north end of Poulsbo bordered by Highway 305 to the south, Viking Way to the west, and Vetter Road to the east. The area is zoned as light industrial and is adequate distance from youth-oriented facilities that current law prohibits. The area is largely undeveloped.

Similar city regulations apply to another field of business, adult entertainment; a notion that some citizens took offense to.

"I hope the city of Poulsbo can get over the stigma of marijuana use," said Troy Barber. "To put it on par with adult entertainment is offensive. You are taking a medicinal herb and likening it to porn."

Barber further asked the council to consider relaxing its zoning regulations.

Both Barber and Doyle pointed to the south end of Viking Way as an ideal location for medical marijuana facilities.

The council did take up their pleas for discussion.

Councilman Ed Stern said he did not feel comfortable with the proximity of the allowable light industrial space to baseball fields used by youth at the north end of the city. He added that may consider the south end of Viking Way for marijuana establishments, near Bovela Lane where a brewery already exist. Stern also pointed to business park areas in the city.

Stern then asked his fellow council members if they would consider discussing the other areas of the city for placement of marijuana facilities.

Some members were willing to discuss the idea, but did not show signs of budging on the current zoning regulations.

"I would be extremely hesitant to allow it in a place like Viking Way which is already struggling and this could make its recovery even harder," said Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist.

The councilwoman said that she liked Stern's idea of possibly placing the marijuana facilities in a business park, however, but remained firm on where she did not want such establishments.

"I don't want it near schools, I don't want it on Viking Way and I don't want it downtown," she said.

Others were wary of letting in marijuana facilities because of other businesses that could follow.

"The only other business that we segregated out to be in light industrial is adult entertainment," said Councilwoman Connie Lord. "And if we open up another light industrial area then both activities can go in any of the light industrial areas."

"If we had it where we were not opening the door for the other kind of business I might be able to consider it," she said

The time spent on the public hearing was brief, but the sentiments expressed were strong. If one thing is clear from what little the public did say, medical marijuana should be considered separately than its recreational counterpart.

"If we suppress cannabis and deny its legitimate use a medicine, we are pushing underground something that is going to happen anyway," Barber said. "Whether you acknowledge it or not, cannabis is in your community now. The whole objective of legalizing marijuana is to bring it out of the criminal element and treat it like a public health issue."

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