Bellevue, where 59 percent of the electorate voted for Initiative 502, is considering banning recreational pot businesses in light of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s advisory opinion that cities and counties can block the new legal industry.
Bellevue’s City Council had already debated legal pot businesses last year and decided to move ahead with “emergency interim” regulations that would allow state-licensed growers, processors and retailers, but restrict where in the city they could locate.
But at a Monday night meeting, the seven council members extended the interim regulations, due to expire next month, for another six months. Then they directed staff to prepare a possible ban on legal pot businesses for them to consider.
Council member Conrad Lee said the city’s tolerant attitude troubled him. Kevin Wallace said he didn’t think a ban was considered during the council’s deliberations last year, but that Ferguson’s opinion made that a viable option. Wallace said he’d like the chance to vote on an outright ban. New member Lynne Robinson, elected in November, said Bellevue is “not the place to manufacture or sell marijuana” and she would disallow legal pot merchants if she could.
John Chelminiak might be the swing vote, as council members Claudia Balducci, Jennifer Robertson and John Stokes indicated they opposed a ban.
Chelminiak said he isn’t sure a ban “is the right thing to do” but said he wanted to discuss it further.
Balducci said a ban would be “short-sighted” and would push problems “over the border but not away.” Robertson said “we need to recognize the will of the voters.” And Stokes said he didn’t think prohibition works and it would be good to bring the illicit pot market out of alleyways and control it. The city might as well ban alcohol if it was going to outlaw legal pot, he said.
During a one-month window for entrepreneurs to seek licenses, state officials received 22 producer, 13 processor and 56 retail applications for Bellevue. Officials had allocated four of the proposed 334 statewide retail stores to Bellevue. Because of the glut it’s expected winners in Bellevue would be decided by a lottery.
If the council is going to ban legal pot, it will want to move quickly. The state could license legal pot merchants in Bellevue any day now who wouldn’t be subject to a subsequent ban and would be legally grandfathered, Robertson said.
The council called for consideration of a ban “as soon as the calendar allows.”
Balducci, who serves as mayor, said a ban would frustrate her because changing course and revisiting an issue that seemed to have been decided would “gum up” the council’s work plan for the state’s fifth largest city.