BELLINGHAM -The City Council voted 6-0 on Monday, Aug. 12, to allow recreational marijuana businesses to operate in industrial districts, with retail stores allowed in industrial and commercial zones. Council member Jack Weiss was absent.
The emergency ordinance, which goes into effect immediately, lifts a controversial moratorium on marijuana businesses and gives cannabis entrepreneurs time to prepare applications for state licenses. The state Liquor Control Board is accepting applications for 30 days beginning on Sept. 16.
The vote came after a public hearing on the moratorium, put into place on July 1.
"After that 30 day window is done, you might not have another opportunity to have (recreational marijuana), and have that money coming in," said Jake LaMont of Birch Bay, who said he is working closely with marijuana interests in Bellingham and Seattle.
There was consensus on the council to get out of the way of people who needed the moratorium to be lifted so they could find a location for their businesses before applying for state licenses.
Assistant city attorney Alan Marriner said staff would "fast-track" permanent rules for recreational marijuana so they could be in place by early 2014. The interim rules passed on Monday can only remain in place for up to one year.
The council also heard testimony on emergency rules limiting the location of medical marijuana gardens to industrial areas. The rules also allowed plants for personal use to be grown at patients' homes.
People speaking out against the rules on medical marijuana said it wasn't reasonable to force operating medical marijuana gardens to suddenly move to an industrial neighborhood.
"The medical patients in this community desperately need access," LaMont said. "Don't push these grows out in the middle of nowhere with these astronomical leases. ... These guys can't afford it."
Council indicated it will need to spend much more time deciding the right course on medical marijuana rules.
"I think medical marijuana is going to be a tough nut to crack," council member Michael Lilliquist said.
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