On Monday the Council passed legislation to allow for better citywide distribution of state-licensed marijuana stores. It’s a classic case of a citywide policy with implications throughout Seattle’s neighborhoods: currently, over half of permitted stores are in District 2 (SE Seattle and SODO) and District 5 (North Seattle), while District 1 (West Seattle and South Park) and District 7 (Downtown to Magnolia) have none.
I-502, passed by voters in 2012 to legalize recreational marijuana, required that marijuana stores be at least 1,000 feet from libraries, public parks, day care centers, arcades, and public transit centers. This legislation reduces the requirement to 500 feet, as allowed by a new state law amending I-502. 1000 feet is still required for schools and playgrounds, in accordance with federal standards. The map above on the right shows the effect of the legislation, and citywide distribution of stores.
Under state law, all current medical marijuana establishments have until July 1 to be integrated into the state’s licensing system, or they will have to close; there are several in the South Park area of District 1. Last month the state Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) increased the number of stores allows in Seattle from 21 to 42.
As of the end of last week, the LCB had received two applications for District 1, in the 5400 block of California Ave NW and the 1400 block of SW Roxbury. The graphic below shows the number of permitted stores, and applications received by the LCB as of last week.
I sponsored an amendment to permit marijuana stores in Downtown Mixed zones within 250 feet of allowed uses. This would allow additional space for stores in Belltown, where none are currently located due to the distance restrictions. This is an area with high tourism, and cruise ship terminals nearby which will soon be hosting additional ships. In Seattle in 2016, tourists don’t just come for the Pike Place Market, the Seahawks, and the area’s natural beauty. Some of them also want to purchase legal marijuana, and it’s important to provide legal opportunities to do so, so they won’t be tempted to buy on the streets—in line with the original intent of voters in approving I-502 to take “marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and bring(s) it under a tightly regulated, state-licensed system similar to that for controlling hard alcohol.”
An amendment by Councilmembers Burgess and González allows 2 stores within 1,000 feet of each other, to avoid excessive concentration of stores. This amendment would apply to any stores that apply for licenses in the future, and, combined with the 500 foot buffers around sensitive areas throughout the city, and the 250’ buffer in Downtown areas, will further limit the number of stores in any given area.