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March 27, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Seattle looks to limit pot stores and grow areas

The Seattle City Council is proposing new rules for marijuana that would restrict dispensary or retail locations and the size of grow operations, in an attempt to limit impacts on neighbors, particularly in residential and historic areas.

City officials started drafting the rules last year after medical marijuana dispensaries sprouted all over Seattle. Then voters legalized recreational pot in November through Initiative 502, changing the marijuana landscape.

State officials are still working on those rules and state-licensed recreational stores won’t open until December at the earliest. As it stands, the new state law wouldn’t allow recreational stores within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other facilities where youth are present, but it doesn’t address residential or historic areas per se.

The city’s new proposed rules, unveiled at a council meeting today, presume that both medical and recreational businesses will operate in Seattle — and that some may try to cater to both consumer groups.

Sponsored by council members Sally Clark and Nick Licata, the new rules have three main features. (Licata’s round-up with links to a staff analysis, zoning map, and proposed regulations is here.)

They would prohibit dispensaries, retail stores and large growing operations in much of Seattle, including residential zones, areas of historic character, and small retail areas surrounded by residences (Neighborhood Commercial 1 zones). The historic areas include Pioneer Square, the International District and Pike Place Market. (See a map here of proposed restrictions; the areas in white would allow dispensaries.)

They would limit growing in those prohibited areas to a maximum of 45 plants, to be consistent with what’s allowed by medical marijuana laws, and to reduce public safety issues that may accompany larger operations.

And they would limit growing operations in industrial areas to 10,000 square feet.

The new rules were written with feedback from the medical marijuana industry and neighborhood organizations.

John Davis, a long-time marijuana activist and owner of two Seattle dispensaries, said he applauded the proposed regulations.

Davis said he could see some entrepreneurs, who are hoping to get state licenses for growing or selling recreational pot, starting to build facilities in Seattle under the proposed rules. If they didn’t get state licenses, he said, then they could fall back to the medical marijuana business. “I think a lot will interpret this as a go-ahead,” Davis said.

“I want reasonable regulations that everyone has to play by,” he said, “because idiots will come in and annoy neighbors and the federal government.”

A public hearing in the council’s Housing, Human Service, Health and Culture Committee is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 24.

Comments | Topics: marijuana

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