Marijuana

Everson becomes first city in county to ban retail pot sales

The Everson City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 22, unanimously approved a ban on growing, processing and selling recreational marijuana, becoming the first city in Whatcom County to do so.
The Everson City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 22, unanimously approved a ban on growing, processing and selling recreational marijuana, becoming the first city in Whatcom County to do so. The Bellingham Herald

Everson is saying “we’re closed” to recreational pot businesses, becoming the first city in Whatcom County to do so.

The City Council on Tuesday, Sept. 22, unanimously approved a ban on growing, processing and selling recreational marijuana.

So far, the small town — population 2,580 — is the only municipality in Whatcom County to do so, although Lynden is considering a ban, too.

The decision isn’t a surprise. The Everson council has had a six-month moratorium in place, one that’s been renewed, since October 2013.

And Lynden has had a moratorium in place since September 2013.

Leaders for both cities have said they approved the temporary moratoriums because they wanted to see how regulations and legal challenges worked out as the state enacted the new recreational pot industry approved by Washington voters through Initiative 502.

The state Attorney General’s Office last year issued an opinion that nothing in I-502 prevented local governments from banning or otherwise regulating marijuana businesses, and municipalities that have banned recreational pot have won legal challenges in court.

That gave the cities the legal confidence to move toward a permanent ban.

The reasons for the Everson ban were the same as for the moratoriums, according to Mayor John Perry.

“The consensus was that while we know this will not eliminate marijuana use in our community, the council felt they wanted to take that stand, that it’s not something we feel is healthy for our community,” Perry said.

And like Lynden, voters in Everson also turned down I-502, which legalized recreational pot for adults. About 56 percent of Everson voters said no to the measure.

As a practical matter, Everson is small enough that locating pot businesses there while following the state’s mandate for a 1,000-foot buffer between such ventures and where children gather, like schools, would have been tough.

Perry supported the council’s decision.

“I still feel strongly that marijuana is a gateway drug that is not healthy for our youth,” he said, adding that the council’s decision was less about adults and more about the impact on children if the city were to allow recreational marijuana.

The Everson council on Tuesday also permanently banned medical marijuana collective gardens.

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

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