Ferndale council votes to leave recreational pot ordinance alone

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 4, 2014 

FERNDALE - The City Council won't place stricter limits on recreational pot businesses in Ferndale after all.

The council voted 5-2 on Monday, Feb. 3, to leave in place the ordinance members approved in November to essentially allow marijuana businesses along the city's Interstate 5 corridor.

The vote occurred after the council talked to City Attorney Dannon Traxler in executive session and decided to follow her advice.

Councilmen Jon Mutchler and Keith Olson voted against the measure in November, and they again cast the no votes for leaving the ordinance alone.

Mutchler had wanted to revisit the issue in light of the Jan. 16 state Attorney General opinion that local governments could impose stricter limitations on recreational pot businesses, even opt out of Initiative 502.

State voters in 2012 approved the measure, which legalized growing, processing and selling marijuana.

In November, the council agreed to permit businesses that grow or process marijuana in general business, light industrial and manufacturing zones. The state has allotted Ferndale one retail marijuana store, which can be located in any zone that allows commercial sales.

Because of a state rule requiring marijuana businesses to locate more than 1,000 feet from schools, parks, libraries and similar places where children are expected, all allowed properties are along I-5. The 1,000-foot buffer prevents a marijuana retailer from opening on the downtown portion of Main Street.

At least two members of the City Council had wanted to wait to hear the Attorney General's opinion before putting rules into place for Ferndale, according to Olson.

"If we would have just held off a little bit we could have discussed it a little bit more. There was no need to be that fast and push this through," Olson said Monday.

At the City Council meeting on Monday, member Brent Goodrich said he was still troubled because marijuana remained illegal under federal law but he felt more comfortable leaving the ordinance in place in part because none of the applications for retail were on Main Street, which is the primary entry way into Ferndale.

Meanwhile, the Lynden City Council on Monday set a Feb. 18 public hearing for extending its six-month moratorium on marijuana businesses in the city.

The one it enacted in September ends in March.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com .

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