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Bellingham latest city to place moratorium on pot businesses

Ted S. Warren
Associated Press

Bellingham is the latest local government in Washington state to place a moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses.  Some cities say it’s important to put a hold on things while the state works out the details of legalizing the retail sale of pot. Initiative 502, which passed last November, legalized the sale of  marijuana for recreational use. After voting for the emergency moratorium on pot businesses in Bellingham, city council member Gene Knutson was quick to point out that he isn’t against marijuana businesses. He says he and other members of the city council supported Initiative 502.

“It’s not an anti-502 situation. I know some of the supporters of that are livid and really mad at us, but I’ve tried to explain to them, this is not a permanent moratorium, it’s temporary," he said.

Temporary, he says, until the council is satisfied there are adequate rules, including local zoning rules, in place to adequately regulate the new businesses.  

A public hearing on the moratorium is scheduled for Aug. 12 in Bellingham. Knutson says it’s possible the council could vote to lift the moratorium it at that time.

Bellingham Assistant City Attorney Alan Marriner says a lot of other municipalities are also trying to figure out how to respond to inquiries from people who want to set up marijuana shops.

"And I think you’ll see other cities take action between now and when the state rules become finalized," he said.

In addition to Bellingham, Olympia and University Place, as well as Pierce County, have passed pot business moratoriums.

The Association of Washington Cities says it is encouraging its members to sit up and take notice of the coming state regulations and to start crafting local ordinances in response.

Washington plans to issue the first marijuana retail licenses in December of this year.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.