The Ocean Shores Planning Commission voted Tuesday to recommend to the City Council that a second retail marijuana store be allowed but all production and processing, including medical marijuana co-ops and collective gardens, be banned within the city limits.
The Planning Commission’s action is a pair of recommendations. The City Council will likely consider them at their next regular meeting, Feb. 27.
The topic has been under discussion just shy of a year. After learning the state would allow a second retail marijuana store inside Ocean Shores, the City Council voted unanimously for a six-month moratorium, on Feb. 22, 2016. In May, Mayor Crystal Dingler asked the Commission for recommendations on the issue. The moratorium was extended by Council action on Aug. 22, and again last month, on Jan. 23.
The Planning Commission took public comment last month, but delayed action until their Feb. 14 meeting.
The appointed Commission voted 4-1 in favor of member Susan Conniry’s motion to recommend that the Council allow a second retail store under presently existing regulations. The vote was 3-2 in favor of member Jeff Daniel’s motion to recommend that the Council not allow production, processing or medical co-op growing operations.
Daniel strongly argued against a second store, saying that, as cash-only businesses, marijuana stores are likely targets for robberies. He also said the theory of more competition driving down prices has yet to be proven with the addition of a retail store outside the city limits at Hogan’s Corner.
Daniels said he is not anti-marijuana. “I love pot … I think it’s a great thing. My concern is safety of this community and the vision of, primarily, our downtown corridor, because that’s where a second store would go,” he explained.
On the question of production, processing and co-ops, before voting 3-2 against them, commission members offered a wide range of comments. Concerns cited included odors from grow operations, comments on both sides of the question of adequate available locations, and fears of crime and the possibility of production and processing facilities becoming heavily guarded compounds within the city.
Conniry said, “I don’t see production coming here — but I don’t want to shut the door (either).” She also spoke in favor of allowing medical marijuana growing co-ops, noting that MMJ patients can already legally grow up to 15 plants each. She said there are presently only three state-approved co-ops, and thinks it unlikely that one would come to pass in Ocean Shores.
The discussion then addressed the presentation of the Commission’s recommendations at an upcoming City Council meeting. Conniry asked if she could present a “minority report” from the Commission at that meeting, and chairperson Cathey Peterson said she did not think so. It was noted, however, that Council members may have specific questions of her and others, and that Conniry could also speak as a private citizen during the public comment portion of the council meeting.
In other business, commissioners spent over an hour on various aspects of the city’s Comprehensive Plan Update. City staff member Linda Whitcher led the discussion that focused on state-defined critical areas, natural resource lands and shorelines. Members also talked about the City Council’s recent request for recommendations on “long-term erosion lands near the jetty.”
The next Planning Commission meeting will take place at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28, at the Canterbury Inn, 643 Ocean Shores Blvd. NW.