Renton Planning Commission to recommend medical pot ban

With the rules on recreational marijuana retail stores now in place and the moratorium on medical marijuana facilities about to expire, the city is poised to take the next step with a recommendation that all medical-marijuana facilities be banned within the City of Renton.

According to senior planner Angie Mathias, the Planning Commission was expected to make the recommendation to the council this week, with review in front of the council’s Planning and Development Committee scheduled for Thursday. The full council will vote on the measure in the upcoming weeks.

Planning officials said the recommendation to outlaw medical-marijuana facilities comes because the voter-approved initiative legalizing medical marijuana did not include regulations for cities, especially compared to the recreational marijuana initiative, which created a structure to be out in place.

“They established a really nice system (for recreational retail outlets), but medical is functioning independently,” Mathias told the committee.

The City Council earlier this year passed new rules on zoning for recreational marijuana stores. Renton is designated to have three stores, though none is open yet.

According to Planning Director Chip Vincent, the city expected the state Legislature to reconcile to the two sides of the marijuana industry, but that did not happen, leaving cities to try and figure it out for themselves.

“It’s an odd period of time, this limbo period we’re in,” Vincent told the committee.

Councilman Ed Prince, who chairs the Planning and Development Committee agreed and called the medical marijuana industry the “wild wild west” because of the lack of regulation.

City Attorney Larry Warren said there are presently two medical-marijuana dispensaries operating with city business licenses, but said both businesses used “very liberal interpretations” of the medical marijuana law and that the legal uses for which they applied on their business license applications – “membership distribution” and “management consulting” – are not their primary purposes and therefore they may be operating illegally.

“After the council takes action, then we will craft our response,” he said referring to how the city will act on a medical marijuana ban, adding that the state government “imported the problem to us by not acting.”

According to Mathias, the Planning Commission hosted a public hearing on the issue, but there was no participation at the hearing and only a single written comment submitted.

The present moratorium on medical-marijuana dispensaries expires Sept. 24. The Planning Commission was expected to vote on a recommendation Wednesday. The issues is scheduled to go back tot he Planning and Development Committee Sept. 4 and on to the full council after that.

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