Bainbridge council to discuss progress in developing permanent regulations for marijuana business

The state Attorney General's Office recently stated that local governments are not required to implement Washington's new marijuana law in their jurisdictions.

But experts at the Municipal Research and Services Center say that attorney general opinions are not binding in state courts.

The Bainbridge Island Planning Commission began work on developing permanent regulations for recreational marijuana businesses this past January. With the attorney general's recent statement, however, planning staff are now asking the city council to weigh in.

The state Attorney General's Office issued a formal opinion Jan. 16 stating that I-502, the voter-approved initiative that legalized recreational marijuana use, does not prevent individual municipalities from banning marijuana businesses.

According to the Municipal Research and Services Center, that opinion will not be binding on state courts. Additionally, a bill has been recently proposed in the Legislature that would prohibit local governments from banning recreational marijuana or regulating marijuana business in a way that essentially makes them impractical or impossible to establish.

If passed, the bill would negate the attorney general's opinion altogether.

At this week's council meeting, Planning Director Kathy Cook will ask the Bainbridge city council if staff should consider the attorney general's opinion when developing permanent regulations.

In addition, Cook will also present the city staff's progress on creating a set of permanent rules for marijuana businesses.

The city council approved interim regulations on retail and processing and a six-month moratorium on grow operations last November.

Since then, the city's planning department has been working alongside the planning commission to formulate a policy direction for permanent regulations.

The commission has, thus far, conducted two study sessions to better understand state law and the city's applicable zoning rules.

No recommendations have yet been drawn up, but several topics on growing marijuana are being further studied.

These topics are: consider distinguishing "marijuana crop agriculture" from general "crop agriculture"; consider allowing only indoor growing; and consider identifying a minimum lot size for marijuana growing.

The city's planning department will discuss the next steps for implementing regulations on marijuana business during the staff intensive portion of this week's council meeting.

The city council meets at 7 p.m. every Wednesday in city hall.

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