Marijuana

Ferndale council OKs moratorium on new marijuana stores

A sandwich board advertises recreational marijuana for sale at Buds SOS on Portal Way in Ferndale Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. The Ferndale City Council on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, approved a six-month moratorium on new pot stores so it can align its rules with new state regulations on marijuana.
A sandwich board advertises recreational marijuana for sale at Buds SOS on Portal Way in Ferndale Friday, Dec. 4, 2015. The Ferndale City Council on Monday, Dec. 7, 2015, approved a six-month moratorium on new pot stores so it can align its rules with new state regulations on marijuana. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

The City Council has temporarily banned new marijuana retailers in Ferndale.

The council voted 5-1 on Monday, Dec. 7, to approve the emergency moratorium. City Council member Cathy Watson was the no vote, while member Jon Mutchler was absent.

The moratorium begins immediately. It will last for six months but can be renewed.

A public hearing on the issue will be held within 60 days.

“This is not a statement on medical marijuana or retail marijuana, simply a temporary moratorium while we update our rules to match the state and to provide clarity,” said Riley Sweeney, the city’s communications officer.

Ferndale has one licensed pot store, Buds SOS on Portal Way.

City officials have said the moratorium shouldn’t affect Buds’ operations or its ability to sell medical marijuana starting on July 1, which is when retailers can start doing so under recent changes approved by the state Legislature.

But Watson said that while she understood the need to match up with the state code as it pertained to medical marijuana, she voted no because Buds SOS could be harmed if new, incoming members of the City Council decided to change Ferndale’s pot policy.

“I didn’t want to open up the process again for fear the future council might decide they could ban marijuana in Ferndale, which would affect our existing store,” Watson said.

Officials have said they wanted time to reconcile their rules with changes in state regulations, which include rolling unregulated medical marijuana operations into the highly regulated recreational pot market.

They also wanted to clarify the city’s rules to would-be retailers in light of the changes at the state level.

For example, Ferndale’s existing rules are aligned with Initiative 502, which focused on selling marijuana for recreational use in Washington state, so it doesn’t allow recreational and medical marijuana to be sold in the same store.

That’s among the changes that will need to be approved by the City Council, perhaps in January, when there will be three, possibly four, new members.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea

COUNCIL MEMBER SEEKS SEAT

Ferndale City Council member Cathy Watson, who unsuccessfully ran for Ferndale mayor, will apply for the post being vacated by fellow council member Jon Mutchler.

Mutchler was elected mayor in November.

He has another two years remaining on his City Council term. Watson’s seat on the City Council expires at the end of this year.

She gave a number of reasons for seeking Mutchler’s council seat.

“I had quite a few people ask me to,” Watson said. “I guess I still have something to give to the process. I still want to help.”

Mutchler will replace current Mayor Gary Jensen in January.

Applications for Mutchler’s post will be accepted until Dec. 28.

The City Council will interview candidates Jan. 4. If a candidate is selected on that date, he or she will start serving on that date.

Kie Relyea

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