MV Planning Commission continues public hearing regarding marijuana zoning
Turnout for the Wednesday, February 1, Public Hearing on Maple Valley Planning Commission’s proposed amendments to the City’s zoning code regarding the sale of recreational marijuana within the city limits was slightly lighter than the opening hearing two weeks prior, however, the hearing still continued with several more testimonies, both pro and con prior to its closing.
As mentioned by Chairman Robert Rohrbach and others on the Commission comments were fairly well distributed between the two sides over the past two meetings with those against more marijuana businesses in the City edging those in favor by only a slight margin. Those in favor of marijuana businesses pointed to the tight security and cleanliness of the local marijuana storefront business. Some of the comments included legislating morality does not work, while others pointed to the founding fathers raising “cannabis.” Still others pointed to alcohol and cigarettes that should be taken away if marijuana was taken away.
Yet another comment that was hit upon several times was the parenting issue regarding. Those in favor of marijuana business stated that it was up to the parents to raise their own children regarding the issues with marijuana.
Medical issues were also brought forward with statements about marijuana helping them function better through PTSD, depression, anxiety, etc. There was also the concern that getting rid of the marijuana stores would only push the product back on the streets where it would no longer be as regulated as it is through the stores – and more easily end up in the hands of juveniles. One commenter stated while leaving the podium that this was not Mayberry and to stop acting like it.
Those against more marijuana stores in the City of Maple Valley included a comment that the speaker did not want to endorse a gateway drug such as marijuana. Adults were not the only ones concerned with marijuana stores. One teen student commented about not wanting to feel pressured by marijuana coming into the City. Another teen student pointed out that federal law takes precedence over state law. The student went on to tell a story of a friend who displayed much promise of going to West Point, but by the time the friend was in 10th grade and with the introduction of marijuana in his life, that friend’s grades went down along with his reputation and financial welfare.
Maple Valley Councilmember Les Burberry let everyone know that according to AAA Foundation and Washington State Traffic Safety Council studies, there has been an uptick in fatalities due to marijuana usage. And while there is a lot of missing data, there seems to be a drastic increase of THC being found in the systems of deceased youth and adults through toxicology reports.
Meanwhile, back at the Maple Valley Planning Commission meeting – seeing as there were no other speakers wishing to come forward to offer testimony on either side of the issue, Chair Rohrbach closed the Public Hearing and opened deliberations between Commission members. As members began working through their thoughts they considered taxation as an issue to be further discuss.
It was pointed out as well that I-502 passed in the City by only 396 votes. One citizen pointed out earlier in the hearing that voters might have voted yes during the initiative process at the state level, however, at the city level they might not vote positive for the business in their city. Some Commissioners brought forward the possibility of putting an advisory vote out to the citizens to see what they thought.
Other concerns raised by Commission members included those with a real need for medical use. There was also a question about limiting the City to one marijuana business thereby causing a monopoly. And there was also the problem of federal law prohibiting marijuana.
All agreed that the issue was a tough and complicated one at best. Commissioners also did not like the issue being forced through the back door by the state onto cities – rather like extortion. Currently, there is a bill – House Bill (HB) 1099 – beginning to make its way through the state legislative process.
Following is a brief summary of HB 1099 – 2017-18 from the State House of Representatives Commerce & Gaming Committee: Establishes that effective January 1, 2018, a municipality that refuses to allow the siting or operation of retail marijuana businesses absent the formal adoption of an ordinance or resolution explicitly prohibiting the operation of such businesses within its jurisdictional boundaries forfeits the following: (1) 70 percent of the municipality’s share of the monies in the liquor revolving fund and; (2) all of its share of state marijuana excise tax revenues to which it might otherwise be entitled.
Sponsors of the bill include: Representatives David Sawyer (D), Cary Condotta (R) and Steve Kirby (D). The item went through a first reading on January 11th and was scheduled for public hearings on January 17th at the House Committee on Commerce & Gaming as well as February 2nd at the House Committee on Appropriations.
After all is considered and the Commission has vetted the marijuana business issue out, they will advise City Council as to their findings and opinion about the subject. From there City Councilmembers will decide how they want to deal further with the subject. They will be free to accept the findings of the Commission, or dismiss them.
Commissioners will meet once again on Wednesday, March 1st at 6:30 p.m. in the Tahoma School District Administration building.
Further public comments can be emailed to Matt Torpey, Community Development Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or Jennifer Cusmir, Deputy City Clerk, email@example.com