City attorney calls for more Seattle pot stores, relaxing buffer rule

City attorney calls for more Seattle pot stores, relaxing buffer rule

Published on 12/5/13

In what he called an effort to make legal pot successful, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes urged state officials to change the way they measure the 1,000-foot distance between pot businesses and prohibited areas frequented by youth.

Holmes also called for the state to increase the number of pot stores allocated to Seattle from 21 to 50. And he asked state officials to give preference in licensing to existing medical-marijuana facilities that show they can comply with rules for the new recreational-pot system.

Holmes was a sponsor of Initiative 502, the legal-weed law approved by voters last year. He said he was making “all these suggestions for the simple reason that, as a sponsor, I want to see I-502 be a success.” Without a more liberal interpretation of the 1,000-foot buffer and without more stores, Holmes said, the state risks handing customers to the illicit market.

But a spokesman for the state Liquor Control Board, the agency implementing the law, said it would likely be awhile before Holmes’ ideas were adopted, if at all. “The board has considered the options in his letter” during 10 months of rule-making, said Brian Smith. He emphasized that the board had initially opted to measure the 1,000-foot buffer by “common path of travel,” which Holmes wants. But after adopting that rule, the top federal prosecutors in Washington state met with Gov. Jay Inslee and argued for stricter as the “crow flies” measurements.

Holmes counters that it’s unrealistic for the feds to insist on stricter control of pot while effectively limiting the number of legal facilities aimed at displacing illegal dealers.

He also points to a nuance in his proposal. He would continue the “crow flies” measure for distance between pot merchants and schools and playgrounds, the chief concerns called out in federal law. But he would relax the measure to “common path of travel” for other youth-frequented venues identified in I-502, such as child-care centers, public parks, libraries and recreation centers. That would create more opportunities for pot-business locations in the city and state.

Existing medical dispensaries that show they can comply with I-502 rules should get preference in licensing, he said, because if they aren’t licensed they may become part of the illicit market.

“I’m hopeful they will heed this,” Holmes said of his suggestions to the state.

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