Bainbridge Island officials want to talk — and talk some more — about changes to city regulations that would allow legal marijuana businesses on the island.
At the council's last meeting, Mayor Steve Bonkowski said he guessed the council would probably need three one-hour sessions to talk about the different aspects of legalized marijuana.
City Manager Doug Schulze said the city should consider adopting an interim ordinance to regulate marijuana businesses rather than putting the issue on hold.
It's a step that the city of Poulsbo, which has the same legal team as Bainbridge, has taken, he said.
"They've implemented interim regulations — an alternative to a moratorium that isn't as quite as onerous as a moratorium might be," Schulze said.
Schulze said the interim rules would prevent applications from being vested, or "grandfathered in," under the city's existing zoning.
"It's an opportunity for the council to immediately implement regulations so that we are positioned to at least address applications that might come in before we are able to have a process in place," Schulze explained.
The Liquor Control Board has already said it will allow 10 retail marijuana stores to operate in Kitsap County, with one specifically on Bainbridge Island.
"If an application comes in to the Liquor Control Board and we don't have zoning regulations in place, but then we get the regulations in place, they are not going to apply to that application, because the application would be vested," Schulze told the council.
"We want to get interim regulations in place," he said, and added that a public hearing on the rules could be held at a later date, but within 30 days of the city's adoption of the interim regulations.
"And then you would have time to revisit an ordinance that would be in place long-term," Schulze said.
The city council is expected to get its first look at the proposed regulations at its meeting Wednesday, Oct. 2.
A first reading of the ordinance is expected a week later on Oct. 9.
Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopoulos said it will be important for the city to let citizens know that the city is not trying to block potential marijuana businesses on the island.
"We need to communicate that we're not trying to defeat the initiative; we are trying to implement it well for our community," Hytopoulos said.
Washington voters approved Initiative 502 in last November's election, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana under state law. The drug remains illegal under federal law.
Bainbridge voters enthusiastically supported the legal pot measure, as eight precincts on Bainbridge approved I-502 with 70 percent or more of the vote. The initiative passed by landslide proportions in 17 precincts out of 22 on the island.
Earlier this month, the Washington State Liquor Control Board gave its initial approval on rules that will guide the production and sale of legal marijuana in the state. A public hearing on the rules is planned for Oct. 8 in Seattle (6 p.m. at Seattle City Hall) and Oct. 9 in Spokane (6 p.m. at the Spokane Convention Center).
Bainbridge city officials have already studied potential locations for legal marijuana businesses, and have said such enterprises will likely be limited to locations in Rolling Bay and Lynwood given regulations that prevent pot shops and farms from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other public-use facilities.
In the past, Bainbridge Island has rejected outright a proposal for a legal marijuana operation on the island.
Washington state voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in November 1998. In March 2012, William McNurney of Hansville applied for a business license to open The Nugg Co-op, a medical cannabis cooperative.
According to a letter to the city from Arleta Young, McNurney's lawyer at the time, McNurney wanted to open a medical marijuana collective garden on Winslow Way.
Young noted in her letter that the city did not have regulations that would prohibit the marijuana garden.
City officials later rejected the application for a business license because the possession and use of marijuana was unlawful under federal law.
It is not known if McNurney would restart his attempts to have a marijuana growing operation on Bainbridge.
In an email to the Review, Young declined to comment on McNurney's future plans, and wrote, "I do not discuss any client information, even to verify or deny that the client exists."