Ferndale City Council OKs emergency ban on pot businesses


FERNDALE - The City Council will block new applications for recreational marijuana businesses in Ferndale for six months.

The council unanimously approved the emergency moratorium on Monday, March 3.

City leaders were concerned about a 30-day period that the state Liquor Control Board gave businesses to finalize their location.

That would be for an applicant who incorrectly put in a home address instead of the actual business location, according to board spokesman Mikhail Carpenter said.

But businesses that already have an application into the state also could use that 30-day period to indicate they will move from jurisdictions that have instituted permanent bans or temporary moratoriums to ones that didn't, acknowledged Carpenter.

The city already has received notice about a business that wanted to move from a location in unincorporated Whatcom County, which instituted a 60-day ban in February, to Ferndale. That business hadn't yet applied for permits with the city.

City officials said the moratorium is for businesses that apply to move into Ferndale within the time they were given by the state to finalize their location. It does not affect those that previously applied to the city of Ferndale.

The 30-day period frustrated Ferndale leaders, who were surprised that businesses could do such a shift and said it wasn't consistent with their understanding of state rules.

"How would that work? We just don't know," City Clerk Sam Taylor said in an interview. "The state has changed the playing field again. We can't confidently say to the council we know what's going on at the state level."

The liquor board's policy could cause recreational marijuana applications for Ferndale to increase "over and above what the market would otherwise demand," the city stated in its ordinance establishing the moratorium.

The city also wanted more time to figure out the impacts of what it calls the liquor board's new procedures as well as the impacts that moratoriums and bans in other local jurisdictions could have on the city.

In addition to Whatcom County, the city of Lynden also has instituted a moratorium on recreational pot businesses.

Dec. 20 was the deadline for pot entrepreneurs to apply for a license for Washington's newest industry since state voters legalized marijuana for recreational use in the November 2012 election.

The liquor board, which is implementing the new pot industry, said it will start issuing licenses this week.

The liquor board has said it will issue state marijuana licenses to all who qualify, regardless of pot bans in local jurisdictions. But the decision on whether they can operate locally will still be up to local governments.

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

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