Bellevue council opts not to ban retail pot stores
Bellevue, the state’s fifth-largest city, decides against banning legal pot sales. But businesses that were winners in Bellevue’s retail-store lottery may not end up in their proposed sites because of city restrictions.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Explore how public opinions of pot have changed
The Bellevue City Council voted Monday night against banning legal pot businesses in the state’s fifth-largest city.
Led by Kevin Wallace, several council members said in March they wanted to consider a moratorium or ban on legal pot merchants in light of state Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s advisory opinion that cities could block the new legal industry.
But in a vote Wallace called for Monday on a six-month moratorium, only Conrad Lee sided with him. The five other council members voted for allowing legal pot businesses, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.
Jennifer Robertson noted that 59 percent of Bellevue’s electorate voted for Initiative 502 legalizing adult possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. “We should respect the will of the voters,” she said.
John Chelminiak put it differently. “I think this is a stupid law. I truly think it is. But it is the law,” he said.
John Stokes said he believes legalization will eventually undercut the illicit market. “Bellevue needs to step up and show how this can be done and in the best interest of the public,” Stokes said.
Lynne Robinson called for an education program in the city to make sure people understand the risks of consuming marijuana.
Only two people in the audience testified, both in opposition to legal pot businesses.
Wallace and Lee said they were concerned about the impact of pot businesses, including the cost of enforcing the law.
Bellevue now has interim regulations in place until October that allow state-licensed growers, processors and retailers, but restrict where in the city they could locate.
Those regulations appear to clash with the results of the recent state lottery to determine which of the 56 applicants seeking to open retail stores in Bellevue would get the four retail licenses allotted by the state to the city.
Bellevue’s regulations require that pot businesses must be separated by 1,000 feet. But two of the lottery winners are not 1,000 feet apart on downtown Main Street — Par 4 Investments, No. 1 in the lottery, and High Society, which pulled No. 3.
Happy Highway, No. 4 in the lottery, has a different problem. It proposed a store at 12121 Northup Way, which is in the Bel-Red residential zone where no pot businesses are allowed, according to city staff analysis.
It’s not clear how the conflict between Bellevue regulations and the state lottery will play out. Lottery winners still must go through a vetting process by the state Liquor Control Board (LCB) before they get a license.
The Bellevue council was advised by city staff that the LCB will not deny licenses based on local regulations. Instead, the city will be responsible for enforcing its own laws and the LCB has told license applicants that receiving a state license is not a guarantee they can operate in a given jurisdiction.
An LCB spokesman had said earlier this month that lottery winners would be allowed to move within a jurisdiction once they were licensed.
The state expects to start issuing retail licenses by early July.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @potreporter