The Eatonville Town Council voted unanimously March 12 to continue to place a moratorium on licensing any business involved in the growing, production and selling of marijuana.

The council has been wary of cannabis businesses since Washington passed Initiative 502 in 2012, essentially legalizing marijuana in the state. It has also been wary about passing laws in either direction on the issue, but has voted multiple times to place a six-month moratorium on any related businesses within city limits.

The March 12 meeting solidified the town council’s approach, which is to say they wanted to let voters decide. In a 4-0 vote momentarily sidetracked by a proposition to table the motion (Councilmember Bill Dunn had an excused absence), the council decided to wait until an advisory vote could be taken.

The advisory vote will be a non-binding measure, meaning the results of voting in November will serve mainly as an opinion poll for the council to consider when it goes back to weighing the issue.

In December of 2017, the council declined to create any land-use regulations for any interested businesses in the cannabis industry. Interim regulations governing where and how marijuana processing and retail sales could operate were proposed in November by the town administration. They were identical to interim rules that were enacted by the council in 2013. After voters gave recreational marijuana approval in 2014, Eatonville's council, citing uncertainty about the ramifications of legalization and the public's welfare, put a moratorium on pot businesses, even though none were being proposed within the town.

The interim rules were rejected by the council in December, setting up the debate over a possible outright ban that now is hinging partly on the outcome of the advisory ballot measure, which was approved by council members James Schrimpsher, Robert Thomas and Jennie Hannah. Councilmen Bill Dunn and Bob Walter voted against it.

The council lifted the moratorium last June. That resurrected the interim land-use regulations.

The March 12 hearing and vote was relatively quiet. Only a few residents spoke up on the issue, one of whom claimed it would be a violation of the Constitution to allow marijuana businesses in the town, as federal law still prohibits the production, sale and consumption of cannabis. Marijuana is still listed as a Schedule One drug federally.

The councilmembers had mostly made their opinions known previously, so the vote went quickly. Assuming the advisory vote on the issue will be on the normal November ballot and not an earlier special election, the town council would have to vote to extend the moratorium on or before August 26.
An ordinance blocking any businesses involved in growing, processing and selling weed under the state’s recreational marijuana law was formally introduced at a council meeting Jan. 8 and moved along to a public hearing at the next council meeting on Jan. 22.

No prospective pot entrepreneurs have requested a business permit from Eatonville, and the state Liquor and Cannabis Board, which regulates the pot industry, isn’t accepting new applications for marijuana retailers, growers or processors, so the issue may be moot for the town. But a majority of council members want to keep it that way.

Towns, cities and counties that ban legalized marijuana businesses don’t get a share of state-collected taxes on pot sales.