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County Council approves emergency moratorium on marijuana producers, processors and retailers


Addressing concerns in unincorporated King County


The Metropolitan King County Council today gave its approval to emergency legislation sponsored by Council Vice Chair Reagan Dunn calling for a four-month moratorium on the acceptance of applications for or the establishment or location of marijuana producers and processors as well as retail establishments in Unincorporated King County.

The Washington state Liquor and Cannabis Board (“WSLCB”), working from 2015 state legislation that assessed the standards of medical and recreational marijuana, recently increased the number of accepted applications for additional producer and processor licenses. A number of the received by the WSLCB are from businesses looking to operate in rural and agriculturally zoned areas of unincorporated King County. These applications are raising concerns that allowing marijuana production and processing would violate the intent of rural zoning regulations in King County.

“For unincorporated communities in King County, the Council acts as the local government,” Dunn said. “It is therefore our job to make sure we are adequately serving and protecting the areas we represent. This moratorium will give us more time to study this issue in more depth and potentially make changes to better preserve rural communities.”

The Council’s vote on the moratorium was in part a response to the unincorporated residents who attended the King County Council’s Committee of the Whole in the unincorporated community of Ravensdale.

Current rural zoning in King County seeks to ‘preserve the rural character’ of unincorporated communities. Concern that the application process for establishing a marijuana production or processing facility does not sufficiently address the impacts and proliferation of these businesses in unincorporated communities have also been voiced. Possible impacts from these businesses include increased neighborhood crime, odors, noise, and potential environmental hazards.

In order to review these concerns in rural areas, the King County Council voted to pass an emergency four- month moratorium on the acceptance of applications for or the establishment or location of marijuana producers and processors. The emergency moratorium on marijuana producers and processors in unincorporated King County is outlined as follows:

• It will be in place for four months starting today, April 25, 2016
• It prohibits King County (Department of Permitting and Environmental Review, Public Health, Road Services Division, etc.) from accepting any permits for new marijuana producers, processors, and retail operations.
• It also prohibits new producers, processors, and retail operations from starting operations, in order to address smaller businesses that were established without requiring any County permits.
• It only applies to the unincorporated area, not any area within city limits.
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