By Pat Jenkins
The next step in Eatonville’s chess match with legalized marijuana may be an all-out ban of retail pot businesses.
The Town Council is on track to possibly prohibit them. 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. The measure could be approved then.
The potential ban is on the table one month after the council rejected a proposal for Interim regulations governing where and how marijuana processing and retail sales could be allowed in Eatonville. That action, taken on Dec. 11, was accompanied by interest among council members in a ban and a possible advisory vote by town residents on whether Eatonville should be open to the legal, state-regulated marijuana industry.
The council also enacted a moratorium against retail marijuana businesses for three years before lifting it last June.
No prospective pot entrepreneurs have requested a business permit from Eatonville, and the state Liquor and Cannabis Bard, 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.
The interim, pot-affirming regulations the council turned down last month were identical to interim rules that were approved by the council in 2013 in advance of a statewide ballot measure on whether to legalize recreational marijuana. After voters passed that measure in 2014, Eatonville's council, citing uncertainty about impacts of legalization and concern for the public's welfare, opted for a moratorium and renewed it every six months until mid-2017. The lifting of the moratorium last year resurrected the interim land-use regulations, which Mayor Mike Schaub said would cover the possibility of someone applying to the town for a permit to run a marijuana enterprise.
Towns, cities and counties that ban legalized marijuana businesses don’t get a share of state-collected taxes on pot sales.
Citizens who spoke against legalized marijuana at an Eatonville council public hearing in December included one who pointed out that federal law is at odds with Washington’s law allowing recreational marijuana businesses.
On Jan. 4, the U.S. attorney general canceled a federal policy that allowed states to regulate marijuana sales, even though the drug is still illegal under the federal controlled-substance laws.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, whose congressional district includes Eatonville, said the attorney general’s action “is an opportunity” to reflect on “harmful effects” of marijuana use.
“Before we continue making decisions and legislating laws that govern the use of marijuana, I strongly believe that we must do more thorough research and study the effects it has on our children and youth before we do harm by acting too quickly,” Reichert said.