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State sees last-minute spike in recreational marijuana apps

A last-minute rush on applications to grow, process and sell recreational marijuana topped out at more than 4,700 by the Dec. 20 deadline.

While the Washington State Liquor Control Board put no limits on how many people could apply to be growers and processors, the cap for retail at 334 licenses statewide and limits on production space leaves no question there will need to be a number of lotteries to decide who will get them.

The city of Bellevue is allocated four marijuana retail stores, but by the end of the application process the WSLCB had received more than 35 applications. The total for retail shops to be allowed in King County is 61.

While there are more than 35 applications listed by the liquor control board for retail sites in Bellevue, the city has only received one official notification from the state agency to review, so far. The city has 20 days after the official notification of an applicant to respond to the LCB.

The Bellevue Police Department receives the notice first to allow time to conduct a background check on the applicant. The LCB assigns a numeric value to criminal convictions, scrapping applicants who exceed eight. Anyone convicted of a felony within 10 years of applying receives 12 points.

More than 10 applications have also been received to grow marijuana within the city of Bellevue, with a number of those same applicants also seeking licensure to process the marijuana, which includes breaking down the drug and packaging it.

The city has put in place an interim zoning ordinance, which conforms with the state and allows retail in 13 different zones, however, growing and processing may only occur within light industrial zones.

The liquor control board has also drafted rules that would prevent any such business from opening within 1,000 feet of a school, park, transit hub, child care center, playground, library, arcade center and collective gardens, which the city likewise adopted in its interim ordinance.

Land use employees with the city will also have to perform a physical site review for all applicants to make sure they meet the standards set by the interim zoning ordinance, said Emily Christensen with the city manager's office, adding the city can handle the demand without additional staff. If more than four retail applicants remain following review of qualifications, a lottery would be held to determine who receives licensure.

City council passed the interim ordinance back in October, setting a six-month deadline to either set a permanent ordinance or extend the interim regulations. The planning commission plans to take up the issue early this year to make recommendations to the council.

"Council does need to act within six months," said Christensen, "and they would either act to adopt permanent zoning or they would extend the interim and that would have to happen by April."

The liquor control board will also accept public comment regarding any recreational marijuana applicant, which can be made by writing to: Washington State Liquor Control Board Licensing and Regulation, P.O. Box 43098, Olympia, WA 98504-3098. A list of applicants can be found online at http://www.liq.wa.gov/records/frequently-requested-lists.

 

 

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