WA: Grant County, State At Odds Over Zoning For Marijuana Businesses

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Ephrata – People looking to start a marijuana business in unincorporated Grant County could be caught in a zoning conflict between the state and the county.

The Grant County commissioners are not reviewing new recreational or medical marijuana business licenses to see if they comply with county zoning codes. But, officials said they could start punishing businesses for being located in the wrong zoning areas.

The commissioners are sending a letter to the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board complaining the state is not considering the county’s concerns about the location of new marijuana-related businesses.

Grant County Planning Director Damien Hooper explained the county was reviewing the applications to determine whether the business was allowed in the zone the owners planned to build it. The majority of the applicants involved are marijuana processors and are only allowed in agricultural or certain industrial zones.

“It’s based on the Liquor and Cannabis Board rules,” he said. “When they send the notice to us, it says, ‘Do you have a problem with this site?’ and ‘Do you have a problem with this person?’”

Commissioners Cindy Carter and Carolann Swartz said the state issues license no matter what the county says.

“Clearly the … (board) was not supposed to make that determination unilaterally, because your own adopted process required notification to the local jurisdiction for the express purposes of review,” the commissioners wrote. “Grant County diligently provided a response to the (state) that established whether or not there were any issues with the site or the applicant.”

The state ignored the county eight times out of 42 permits processed, according to county records.

Liquor and Cannabis Board spokesman Brian Smith explained the state does notify the local governments about applications, but the state board is not allowed to consider the rules of the local government.

Smith said the state attorney general issued an opinion after voters approved Initiative 502 ruling the state does not have the authority to make decisions based on local laws.

If a location conflicts with a city or county code, Smith said it’s the city’s or county’s responsibility to enforce the rule.

Hooper said some of the businesses have started in locations that aren’t appropriately zoned.

“We can spend our time doing enforcement just fine and if that’s what we have to do, that’s what we’ll do,” he said. “Instead of having to spend our time, chasing these applications down and sending the liquor and cannabis board notifications.”

People opening up marijuana processors in the wrong area could face fines.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Grant County, State At Odds Over Zoning For Marijuana Businesses
Author: Cameron Probert
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