Is marijuana getting harder to find on the Key and Gig Harbor Peninsulas?


Rick Sorrels

An emergency motion was passed unanimously by the Gig Harbor City Council on April 14 for a six-month moratorium which would prohibit any marijuana sales businesses within city limits. Emergency motions do not allow for public comment.

The council had been discussing and considering for the past several months, new zoning changes which would allow businesses that held state licenses to sell marijuana at strictly controlled, pre-designated locations away from schools and other sensitive locations, with 2,500-foot buffers between individual marijuana stores.

Council members cited conflict in guidance from state agencies, specifically the Washington State Liquor Control Board, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The Liquor Control Board is scheduled to have a lottery before the end of April to determine which applicants receive licenses from the State to sell marijuana for recreational use.

In January, the State Attorney General ruled that county and municipal governments are allowed to establish zoning requirements and prohibitions, as they so choose, concerning the growing, selling, and processing of marijuana products. State-issued marijuana licenses cannot override local ordinances.

License applicants who attended the meeting will have an opportunity to address the city council on June 6.

Coincidentally, on April 14, the University Place City Council also made a unanimous decision to ban marijuana businesses.

Gig Harbor and University Place have joined with Lakewood, Sumner and unincorporated Pierce County in banning marijuana-related businesses. Irrespective of whatever the local municipal governments decide, marijuana still remains a controlled substance under federal law, which imposes stiff penalties for growing, processing, and selling the plant and its products.

State Initiative 502 was passed by the voters which loosened some of the state criminal statutes regarding marijuana, and at the same time established blood levels for driving under the influence of marijuana. Initiative 502 had no affect on federal statutes. The federal congress has taken no action yet to change federal law.

As stated by the DEA officer in an accompanying article, who was involved in the recent raids and arrests on the KP, and in 2011; “The distribution of marijuana is illegal under federal law, without exception” but “our investigation is not targeting those marijuana providers that are complying with the letter and spirit of existing state law.”

The Feds are focusing primarily on the growing, selling, and processing of marijuana products, along with sales to minors and exposure to children. There currently exists a certain degree of tolerance for recreational use among federal agencies, provided individuals comply with state statutes.

Meanwhile, state regulatory officials in Washington and Colorado are considering strictly enforced limits to the amount of marijuana extract in food and beverage products, responding to deaths where 10 to 100 times a normal “dose” of active ingredient was ingested.

Our recent “wild west” approach to marijuana seems to be tightening. Discussion in the Legislature is to combine the recreational and medical use statutes with oversight by the Liquor Control Board.

The Feds are watching, waiting to pounce if we do not do it right. Recent advertisements on Craig’s List include a marijuana delivery service for medical marijuana users on the KP, a hopeful winner of the marijuana lottery on the KP advertising for investors, and another hopeful in South Kitsap looking for partners for a drive-thru recreational marijuana stand that looks just like a barista stand.

Anybody want bikinis with their extra-special brownies?