Not surprisingly, there were some strong opinions Tuesday night on Spokane Valley’s latest moratorium on any new licensed marijuana-based businesses.
At the public hearing – necessary within 60 days of the emergency ordinance passed by the council earlier this month – council members heard nearly a dozen mostly speak against continuing the moratorium, with detractors saying the temporary ban is everything from anti-business to anti-America.
“There is no limit to how many businesses can sell wine, beer or cigarettes,” said Jason Dixon, owner of the Herb Nerds medical marijuana co-op, 12928 E. Indiana Ave, adding that his customers could be forced to the “dark world of black markets” if he is forced to close.
Existing medical marijuana stores must be licensed with the state Liquor and Cannabis Board by July 1, 2016, or they will be out of compliance with state law.
The city passed the unannounced ordinance on Oct. 6 after the state of Washington passed emergency rules concerning the licensing of commercial marijuana stores that went into effect on Oct. 12. The city has been operating under a pre-existing moratorium passed late last year that banned new unlicensed medical marijuana stores from opening.
New legislation, however, allows for medical and recreational marijuana stores to operate with separate licenses under the same roof. While the city of Spokane Valley currently has three licensed stores selling recreational marijuana, the state has set no set limits on how many new stores could open in any given area under the new rules.
Concerned that new pot-based businesses could open unchecked – 19 recently applied for licenses – the new year-long moratorium will stop any new retail shops or production facilities from opening until the city can review and enact new rules where and how they can operate.
“That process is well underway,” said Erik Lamb, deputy city attorney, adding that the topic is already before the Planning Commission.
While the moratorium does not affect any existing businesses at this time, many who spoke said that neighboring jurisdictions will at an unfair advantage by being able to sell both medicinal and recreational pot – while the city loses out on tax dollars – and that the moratorium could still be in effect past the July state deadline.
“We’re coming tonight to ask for your help,” said Sean Green, a local licensed marijuana producer. “Your actions have a negative impact on my business. Please, let’s address this right now.”
As Tuesday’s meeting was a public hearing, the council had planned to take no action. The first reading of a proposed ordinance adopting findings of fact is planned for Nov. 10, however, with final adoption on Nov. 17.
While the council mostly remained quiet for the duration of the testimony, Council Member Bill Gothmann did offer this to those who wished to see the ordinance rescinded: “You’ve asked us to lift the moratorium. It will be lifted in one year. We will do exactly what you’re asking.”