News: E-burg works on marijuana legalization

Colt Sweetland, Staff Reporter

The city of Ellensburg is on its way to allowing marijuana businesses within the next few months.

Recently, the city council placed a moratorium on marijuana  in Ellensburg to give the council more time to prepare.

Lance Bailey, the planning supervisor for the city of Ellensburg, said since Intiative-502 was passed in Washington there hasn’t been much opposition to the law.

“Any licensed facility has to be a minimum of 1,000 feet from any school, playground, recreation center, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, game arcade, or any other place where minors are allowed to enter,” Bailey said.

There is currently one application in Ellensburg to open a production facility in an acceptable location that does not intrude on the 1,000 feet buffer zone, Bailey said.

“It really hasn’t been controversial here in Ellensburg,” Bailey said.

The majority of Ellensburg is excluded from accommodating marijuana retailers due to the zoning regulations. It is easier for the applications to be accepted if they are sent to Kittitas County because there are more potential locations available with no restrictions, Bailey said.

TJ McDonald, former owner of The Lounge in Ellensburg, said the city will be prepared once the licenses are accepted.

“I think the city is doing a fair job in dealing with these zoning issues, and with a little patience, it’ll all work out,” McDonald said.

According to Bailey, there will be restrictions on future marijuana businesses in Ellensburg.

“The production facilities are limited to indoors, and the retails are limited to a maximum of 3,000 square feet, and they can’t have drive-thrus,” Bailey said.

The reasons for these limitations are to make sure businesses have a controlled facility that can monitor the growing process.

“The best situation for someone doing this is an empty warehouse building that has full power and can be climate controlled,” Bailey said.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board will regulate the marijuana business applications. They have placed some limitations for Kittitas County on the amount of businesses that can be licensed.

Brian Smith, communications director for the Washington State Liquor Board Control, said that there was a 30-day period in which people could apply for applications during November 2013.

“We received over 7,000 applications throughout Washington State during this period, which is 2,000 more than grocery stores in the state,” Smith said.

The liquor board is examining the applications by checking criminal background history and how long they’ve lived in Ellensburg to make sure there aren’t any issues with the applicant.

“It’s a big process, but we estimate that we’ll begin issuing licenses in March,” Smith said.

Smith also said the liquor board has limited the number of retail licenses that can be issued per city, which is a maximum of two for the city of Ellensburg.

Across Washington there have been more applications than licenses available for each county and city; therefore, a lottery system will be used to pick which people will obtain the licenses, according to Smith.

“If you pass all the requirements to obtain a license, you will be eligible for the lottery,” Smith said.

Many of the applications submitted thus far are from people who didn’t necessarily have a location set in place for their business, so the formal process for choosing who obtains licenses will mainly be determined by who was most prepared, according to Smith.