By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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The City Council put a six-month moratorium on pot shops Feb. 24 and left it there during Monday night’s council meeting despite approving on a split 4-3 vote new regulations that would restrict where pot shops could locate in the city.
The zoning rules do not allow pot to be grown or processed in Sequim.
Councilman Ken Hays called for the council to approve the zoning restrictions, saying they would give the city control over the “inevitable” establishment of pot businesses.
“If we do nothing, then we lose control,” Hays said.
Hays, Mayor Candace Pratt and Councilwomen Laura Dubois and Genaveve Starr voted in favor of the zoning restrictions, which are only valid if the city lifts the temporary ban.
Councilmen Erik Erichsen, Ted Miller and Dennis Smith voted against the new zoning laws.
Sequim voters gave 52 percent approval to Initiative 502, which passed in Clallam County by 55 percent and in Jefferson County by 65 percent on its way to statewide approval in the November 2012 election.
In the one-month window the state gave entrepreneurs to apply for pot licenses, the Liquor Control Board received five retail, one processor and no producer applications for inside Sequim’s city limit.
The state allocated one retail pot store for Sequim. No licenses have been approved yet by the liquor board for the North Olympic Peninsula.
Miller worried the liquor board might up that number if there is greater demand for recreational pot.
“It’s one today. It could be any number tomorrow,” he said.
Erichsen said he voted against the zoning laws because of the federal prohibition on marijuana, noting he pledged allegiance to the U.S. flag at the start of Monday’s meeting, which pre-empts state law.
“You’re sworn to uphold the laws of Washington, one of which is 502,” Judith Parker of Sequim said, one of several citizen speakers who cited the oath of office administered to council members.
Federal officials have said they will let Washington and Colorado legalize marijuana despite the federal prohibition as long as they keep it tightly regulated.
“I’m sorry we have federal officials who do not wish to support our laws,” Erichsen said.
The council will review the moratorium April 28, city attorney Craig Ritchie said.
David Mattingley hailed the temporary ban, saying it gives the city time to review the implications of legal pot before it “falls down this rabbit hole.”
However, Anthony Owen owner of the Karma Wellness Cooperative in Port Angeles, said the ban has kept him from opening a shop in Sequim, where he estimated 400 of his 1,000 patients live.
“We would like to operate within the city limits, but that is not possible with the moratorium in place,” Owen said.
Dubois said she wanted to leave the ban in place to determine the additional costs legal pot may cause for the city.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.