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Entrepreneurs object to city marijuana codes
POULSBO — The City Council revisited its interim regulations for marijuana businesses Feb. 5 as the state's implementation of a recreational market continues.
But while the council was prepared to keep the interim regulations in place, entrepreneurs voiced objections to zoning limitations the city has put on marijuana businesses.
"I am interested in opening a marijuana retail store in Poulsbo, doing business as 'Poulsbo Haze,'" said Ann Simandl during a public hearing. "I have still not been able to find suitable housing for my endeavor, either within Poulsbo or the North Kitsap area.”
Simandl said she has looked into the areas in Poulsbo where marijuana is allowable, and has found no viable locations.
The city established interim zoning regulations for recreational marijuana in August that relegated marijuana businesses — producers, processors and retailers — to properties zoned light industrial. The council voted Feb. 5 to maintain the interim regulations.
Taking into account the state's regulations for buffers from areas such as schools, daycare facilities or transit centers, marijuana business are left with two small areas in the city: one on the corner of Bond Road and Highway 305, and a sliver of land between the intersection of Vetter Road and Viking Way at the north end of the city.
The light-industrial property at Highway 305 and Bond Road is occupied by the Kitsap County Public Works road division, leaving the Vetter Road/Viking Way site the only available space.
"There's nothing there, there are no facilities," Simandl said.
The location is largely undeveloped, and entrepreneurs like Simandl have had difficulty finding a spot. She said she contacted a developer on Bainbridge Island; the company is planning a business park within the zone.
"I was told that they were not interested in developing this kind of business on the property because marijuana processing, producing and retailing is still a federal offense," Simandl said.
"They said no," she later added. "A lot of people are afraid because of the whole federal law thing, and we've been assured that the feds are not going to come after us."
Simandl also cited recent news articles reporting the tax revenue that Colorado's recreational marijuana stores have produced. A total of 18 Colorado stores, recently surveyed, reportedly generated $1.24 million in tax revenue. Colorado, the only other state in the nation with a marijuana market, has a total of 35 retailers.
The numbers were of interest to another business hopeful who addressed the council.
"This is going to bring a lot of money to whatever city accepts it," said Annica Hartwell, who wants to start a business for cannabis-infused cosmetics.
"If you make it too hard, we'll just go to another city and the money can go there, while you spend the time figuring out what you are going to do," she said. "Poulsbo is just a little city, we can do it anywhere. I'd like to do it here."
“To deny people the right to have access to a retail establishment is wrong," she added.
Councilman David Musgrove asked city staff how many properties were actually available in the area to business start ups. In short, staff members did not know.
The state's liquor control board will set official buffers when a business applies in a locally allowable zone. The zoning map for marijuana businesses that the city uses as a reference is an estimate.
Planning Director Barry Berezowsky estimated that a handful of properties, perhaps around 10, were in the north Viking Way vicinity.
Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist was also interested in how many properties were actually available, and would like to look closer at the current allowable area.
The only other council member to comment on the matter was Councilman Jim Henry, who said he sees a difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana.
"Personally, as far as I'm concerned, they can sell medical marijuana in Walmart," he said.
But he was unsympathetic to recreational uses.
"I'm concerned about it. Recreational marijuana, I looked at this when I was a young kid in school. They used to teach us about the opium dens in China and what it did to those people," Henry said. "I know what it's doing to the people in California. All they want to do is get high."
It was a sentiment lost on business hopefuls.
"An opium den?" Simandl said. "That's a narcotic!"