State to issue marijuana licenses regardless of bans in Whatcom County, Lynden


The Washington State Liquor Control Board announced Wednesday, Feb. 19, that it will issue marijuana licenses to all who qualify, regardless of pot bans in local jurisdictions.

The decision is a continuation of the board's original stance on the issue.

"There's nothing in the law that allows us to not issue a license," said Randy Simmons, deputy director of the Washington State Liquor Control Board.

Individuals in jurisdictions with bans can receive licenses, but it doesn't mean that they can operate. That decision is still up to the local government.

"Many of these moratoria are in place in these cities that need more time to address zoning issues," said board member Chris Marr. "This gives each applicant the ability to work with jurisdictions."

Whatcom County and Lynden have instituted moratoriums on recreational pot businesses.

The Lynden City Council voted unanimously at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 18, to extend its moratorium by another six months.

The temporary ban applies to pot growing, processing and retail operations.

The first moratorium was enacted in September. It ends in March.

Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis has indicated that city leaders are taking a cautious approach as the Liquor Control Board moves toward enacting and regulating the new industry - adding that they wanted to see how things settle out.

Meanwhile, the Whatcom County Council voted unanimously Feb. 11 to block new applications for marijuana businesses for 60 days.

The moratorium would temporarily halt any applications to the county for building improvements or other permits such businesses would require, regardless of whether the state has approved the business' license to grow, process or sell marijuana. It applies only to the unincorporated county and includes medical marijuana operations; proposed marijuana businesses in cities are not affected.

The council will work within the 60 days to set stricter rules for siting marijuana businesses.

More than 7,000 applicants paid a $250 fee for a state license, and those in jursidictions with bans would be allowed to withdraw their application and get a refund. Those who applied and were denied a license would not be eligible for a refund, according to the liquor board.

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