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Top-ranked marijuana retailer not in proper zone

The top finisher in the city’s marijuana retail store lottery is not currently located in one of the zones in which the city allows the businesses, but the owner says he is looking elsewhere and hopes to get the license anyway.

The City of Renton earlier this year passed an ordinance limiting marijuana retailers to zones in the city that allow taverns. General retail sales are allowed in 13 of the city’s zones, while taverns (and now retail marijuana businesses) are only allowed in six zones, which city officials described as “more intensive commercial” areas.

The decision to classify retail shops in the same way as taverns is based on the “strong comparisons” between the two uses, including age restrictions and the need for a special license from the Liquor Control Board. A difference, however, is that no consumption will be allowed at marijuana retail stores.

The policy was recommended by the planning commission and approved by the city in late March.

Applicants for marijuana retail businesses must pass background checks of the owners as well as their locations to make sure they are not within any of the state-mandated buffer zones around schools, parks and other sensitive uses.

Cities have the right to add stricter zoning than the state, however, and applicants must meet those requirements.

Nine businesses filed for three retail licenses available for the city of Renton. Last week, the Liquor Control Board hosted a double-blind lottery to rank the businesses.

A look at addresses of the top three-ranked applicants for a marijuana retail store shows that while the No. 2- and No. 3-ranked businesses are located within one of the city’s “tavern” zones, the top-ranked business is not.

The Dormouse, the top-ranked applicant in Renton, is listed as being located in the 900 block of Thomas Avenue Southwest, which though a commercial retail zone, marijuana retailers are not an accepted use in that zone.

According to Mikhail Carpenter of the Washington State Liquor Control Board, the agency issuing the marijuana licenses, because the city issued its additional zoning requirements after the application deadline for the state licenses, Dormouse owner Eric Gaston will “more than likely” have the opportunity to re-apply with a new location.

Gaston this week said he has already spoken to the city and is looking to move his business to another location.

“I didn’t realize at the time that I was in a zone that wasn’t zoned for taverns,” he said.

Both the second- and third-ranked businesses, Northwest Cannabis Emporium in the 1200 block of Union Avenue Northeast and Seattle Tribe Partners in the 100 block of Southwest 41st Street, appear to be in proper zones.

Also this week, the City Council hosted a public hearing on the extension of the city’s moratorium on medical marijuana licenses.

City officials have stated they are hoping the state Legislature offers guidance on how to deal with medical marijuana establishments, which are presently unregulated. The city first passed a moratorium in November. This six-month extension will expire Nov. 24.

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