BELLINGHAM, WA — Last night the largest city in Whatcom County repealed a moratorium on legal pot stores enacted last month. In a 6-0 vote, the Bellingham City Council reversed course and approved zoning for legal pot, according to theBellingham Herald.
The move comes as the Washington State Liquor Control Board plans to accept marijuana business license applications starting September 16. Applicants will have a 30-day window to apply for a license, and must have a qualified location in place before they apply. But leasing a location is difficult in cities that have outlawed would-be pot businesses.
Under Bellingham’s new ordinance, legal pot businesses will be allowed in commercial and industrial zoning. The city council also discussed medical marijuana grows, which it previously restricted to personal residences and industrial zoning. Numerous medical marijuana activists spoke against that restriction, saying unregulated medical grows outside of personal residences provide patients with safe access to marijuana.
Other Washington cities have recently passed moratoriums on legal pot businesses and many more have banned medical cannabis businesses, following the advice of the Association of Washington Cities, a quasi-governmental agency which produced a model moratorium ordinance for city councils to enact.
But with the liquor board planning to license pot businesses next month, such cities are essentially opting out of Initiative 502, the voter-approved pot law. That is not technically allowed under the initiative, but several jurisdictions have banned legal pot businesses anyway, while some cities have embraced the new law. And with the liquor board planning a 30-day window for legal pot license applications, these local bans could leave the state with a patchwork of “dry cities.”