Bainbridge city council approves interim marijuana regulations

The Bainbridge Island City Council heard from a flurry of passionate people over the course of a 40-minute public hearing on legalized marijuana.

But with a 5-1 vote Nov. 25, the council approved a temporary ordinance to establish rules on marijuana retail stores, and processing and collective gardens — plus a six-month moratorium on grow operations.

Some expressed their disappointment in the council for considering a moratorium at all. Others used the word “genocide” to describe the impact the interim regulations would have on the community.

The interim regulations will limit processors, retailers and medical marijuana “collective gardens” to business industrial zones.

The Day Road industrial park has been identified by city planning staff as the potential location for such businesses.

One resident spoke up on the necessity for many community members to be allowed to self-medicate and that the identified location off of Day Road would limit medical users to just one collective garden. A collective garden limits no more than 10 qualifying patients to participate.

“There’s a lot of people who depend on growing their own marijuana … you would take away my right to self-medicate, along with everyone else,” said Anakka Hartwell.

“If you rule this way, you’re participating in this genocide. You are participating in people getting sick and people dying,” she said.

City Attorney Jim Haney said the regulations being considered only apply to marijuana producers who are interested in resale, however.

In addition, the interim regulations and a temporary moratorium on growing operations will expire in six months. That time frame will give the council and city staff an opportunity to research more comprehensive regulations, so that questions like the one brought forward by Hartwell could be addressed, officials said.

In a permanent zoning ordinance, the city will consider impacts experienced by other communities, offensive odors, night-time traffic and loitering, environmental impacts, illegal structural modifications, and medical marijuana, among many other aspects of the ordinance.

“It’s important for us to recognize that an interim ordinance is not a permanent ordinance,” said Mayor Steve Bonkowski.

“And within six months we have a lot of work to do to be able to understand what the impacts are. We just don’t know at this time,” he said.

Others on the council clarified that the temporary ordinance is not an expression of council’s disapproval of Initiative 502, the law passed by Washington voters in 2012 that legalized recreational marijuana use by adults under state law.

“The amount of time we’ve been given by the state has pushed us up against a wall,” said Councilwoman Kirsten Hytopolous. “And our responsibility isn’t just to make sure this gets implemented — which is the will of voters — but to make sure it fits into all our other needs as a community.”

Councilwoman Debbi Lester opposed the final vote and explained that she did not support a moratorium on grow operations.


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