The mayor attempted to veto a 4-3 vote by City Council to allow a second marijuana store, but two council members thwarted the effort by threatening to change their votes.
Council members Brent Goodrich, Keith Olson and Cathy Watson voted against a second store in Ferndale at the Monday, Feb. 1, council meeting.
Four other council members approved it, including Teresa Taylor because “it’s legal to do so and I’m pro-business.”
But when Mayor Jon Mutchler said he would exercise his veto power because the vote was a close one, Watson and Goodrich said they would change their decision even though they didn’t want a second store.
“I’m very uncomfortable with you vetoing a vote of the council,” Watson said.
Goodrich said council members on the losing side of a decision “take our lumps sometimes and move on,” adding the mayor should do so as well.
“I don’t think it’s right to tell the council, ‘I’m going to usurp your authority,’” Goodrich said.
State law does allow a mayor to veto a city council’s decision, but the veto doesn’t take effect during the same meeting and the mayor must explain in writing the reasons for the veto. A majority of the council, plus one, could override the veto.
In a statement, Mutchler on Tuesday said he was trying to protect Ferndale.
I still feel strongly about this issue but that’s one of the things about democracy: You don’t always get your way.
Ferndale Mayor Jon Mutchler
“When the council voted 4-3, I saw that there was not clear and strong support for allowing more access to this drug, so I sought to exercise my mayoral veto to protect the safety of our community,” he said in a statement on the city’s website. “When it comes to the damage that marijuana can do to the children of Ferndale, I wanted to do what I could to keep us safe.”
He said he withdrew his veto after seeing that the council was going to override his decision.
“I still feel strongly about this issue but that’s one of the things about democracy: You don’t always get your way,” Mutchler said.
Ferndale now has one licensed pot store, Buds SOS on Portal Way.
Allowing a second store to open in Ferndale was among the changes city leaders took up as they reconciled their rules with revisions in state regulations, which included rolling unregulated medical marijuana operations into the regulated recreational pot market.
As part of folding medical into recreational sales, the state Liquor and Cannabis Board increased the number of stores statewide from the current 334 to a new cap of 556. So the state allowed Ferndale to have two stores.
Before voting on a number of pot rules, the council heard from people who supported having another store and others who opposed allowing more access to marijuana.
Ferndale Police Chief Michael Knapp didn’t want another store in the city, citing concern for the impact on youngsters’ brains, increasing pot-related arrests of Ferndale High School students, and inadequate staffing to regulate marijuana.
Other speakers said they use medical marijuana and would like to be able to buy it in Ferndale.
Other changes the council made and their votes were:
▪ Ferndale’s rules were aligned with Initiative 502, which focused on selling marijuana for recreational use in Washington state, so it didn’t allow recreational and medical marijuana to be sold in the same store. On Monday, the City Council changed that provision to match the new state rules. That passed 5-2 with Olson and Goodrich opposed.
▪ Restricting pot stores to the general business zone. That passed 5-2, with Olson and Rebecca Xczar voting against it.
▪ Lifting the emergency moratorium the council put into place in December on new pot stores in Ferndale. Goodrich was the lone no vote.
The City Council discussed but didn’t add religious institutions to the 1,000-foot buffer where pot stores can’t go. The state mandates that much room between pot businesses and places where children might gather, like schools and arcades, but doesn’t specifically include religious institutions.