File photo by Sue Misao

File photo by Sue Misao

By LAURELLE WALSH

Winthrop’s Planning Commission is seeking guidance this week from the Town Council on the issue of zoning for marijuana-related businesses.

Town planner Rocklynn Culp will bring the zoning question to tonight’s (July 17) council meeting to have “at minimum some discussion and awareness of the issue, and hopefully to have council adopt an ordinance that clarifies rules for zoning of such businesses,” she said.

The planning commission initially discussed zoning for marijuana producers, processors and retailers at its meeting on July 9, and “opted to have me address the issue to the Town Council, saying they did not feel prepared to make a recommendation without considerable input from residents,” Culp said.

Zoning for marijuana-related businesses is just one issue that municipalities across the state are grappling with after the passage of Initiative 502 last November. The new law calls for the establishment of a regulatory system licensing producers, processors and retailers of recreational marijuana for adults 21 or older, and will require local governments to examine their policies concerning law enforcement, personnel and employment, taxes and revenue, and land use and zoning, according to the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington (MRSC).

Winthrop, like towns across the state, is responding to MRSC’s suggestion that local planning departments “do a careful job mapping out areas that are specifically excluded from having any marijuana-related businesses.”

To assist the council and planning commission with their considerations, Culp created “a cursory map” of Winthrop that illustrates the required 1,000-foot buffer around schools, playgrounds, parks and libraries as provided by Initiative 502. This left some commercial properties on the south end of the business district and up the hill in the Horizon Flats industrial zone as possible locations for marijuana-related businesses, Culp said.

Although the town has not yet received any applications for marijuana-related businesses, “absent any other rules, at present we would have to consider those businesses the same as any other business license,” Culp said.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board – recreational marijuana’s regulatory and taxing body – issued proposed rules for producers, processors and retailers on July 3. Adoption of final rules is slated for Aug. 14 after a series of public hearings and comment period.

The Liquor Control Board will begin accepting applications for all marijuana license types on Sept. 16, 2013 with a 30-day registration window initially. It expects to begin issuing licenses to qualified applicants in December.

More information is available at liq.wa.gov.