City of Everett - City Council - Meeting
(October 14, 2020)

Wednesday October 14, 2020 6:30 PM Observed

Due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus), the City of Everett City Council meets remotely every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. except the fourth Wednesday of each month. The fourth Wednesday regular council meeting of each month begins at 12:30 p.m.

Public Hearing

  • (4) CB 2009-49 – 3rd and final Reading - Adopt the Proposed Ordinance increasing the number of permitted Recreational Marijuana Retail Stores to not more than Eight, amending Section C of Ordinance No. 3486-16 (EMC 19.39.145, as amended).

Engagement Options

Phone

Number: 1.425.616.3920
Conference ID: 724 887 726

Phone

Those wishing to provide public comment must dial in at 6pm at a separate number.

Number: 1.425.616.3920
Conference ID: 402 794 162#

Observations

The Everett City Council voted to permit three more medically endorsed cannabis retail establishments in their city, increasing the total number of stores from five to eight.

Here are some observations from the Wednesday October 14th City of Everett City Council meeting.

My top 3 takeaways:

  • Everett officials reviewed their ordinance restricting retail cannabis outlets to consider increasing the number of stores permitted within the City’s allotment.
    • State law required the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board (WSLCB) to set “the maximum number of retail outlets that may be licensed in each county” considering the following factors:
      • (a) Population distribution;
      • (b) Security and safety issues;
      • (c) The provision of adequate access to licensed sources of marijuana concentrates, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products to discourage purchases from the illegal market; and
      • (d) The number of retail outlets holding medical marijuana endorsements necessary to meet the medical needs of qualifying patients.
      • The agency released a spreadsheet about the allotment changes for each jurisdiction that declared an increase in Everett’s retail cap from five locations to ten in March 2016.
    • The City of Everett had chosen to only approve five retail locations, below their allotted cap of ten, and was prepared to consider CB 2009-49 - Amendment of Recreational Marijuana Zoning Regulations.
      • In July 2015, the City passed an ordinance on land use regulations for cannabis retailers.
      • In March 2016, immediately following WSLCB’s allotment change, the City amended their land use regulations to specify “The maximum number of retail marijuana stores allowed in the City of Everett shall not exceed five. Provided, the City shall review the maximum number of retail marijuana stores allowed before June 1, 2018, to determine whether this maximum number should be changed.”
    • At Wednesday’s meeting, the entire Everett City Council was present:
    • Other Everett officials attending:
  • During general public comment near the start of the meeting, several citizens provided feedback on the proposed increase, including medical cannabis patients and a retail title certificate holder.
    • Jona Cheatham, Last Stop Pot Shop Owner (audio - 2m). Cheatham spoke as a retail title certificate holder and as a “a single mother and a small business owner.” She identified herself as a minority business woman who had become involved in civic organizations, stating “if allowed to join your city, we will not stop this commitment to being involved and partnering for good.” Cheatham said she was already providing “jobs and revenue” to the City, describing her store as “a local, family-run business and we care about the communities that we serve.” She expressed her willingness to “work with the residents, the school districts, non-profits, and the City.” She described her shop’s customer base as “your neighbors, they are employers, and they are everyday people that we’d be honored to have the chance to serve.”
      • Another retail title certificate holder, Angel Swanson, requested the WSLCB allow certificate holders to move license locations on September 16th.
    • Angela Difilippo (audio - 3m).
    • Kristina Franklin, Kushman’s General Manager (audio - 2m). Franklin explained she worked for “the newest retailer in the city” and had written and testified before the council previously. She thanked the group for “having the conversation and allowing the ordinance to come back for a vote.” She discussed Kushman’s engagement with the community, her 2020 graduation from Leadership Snohomish County (LSC), and work with that group to “help craft our corporate social responsibility plan.” Franklin asked that council members consider “the contributions that we have made to the community and the value that we add when you consider allowing three more stores.” Kushman’s was a former retail title certificate holder, having assumed the city’s fifth retail location "when Mary J's went out of business." She was supportive of keeping “that 2,500 foot buffer in place to ensure healthy competition.”
      • The City of Everett Planning Department devised two maps showing retail buffer distances under the current rule versus a proposed buffer reduction to 500 feet.
      • Everett’s retail buffer zones were distinct from distance requirements encoded in RCW 69.50.331(8)(a) which established that WSLCB “may not issue a license for any premises within one thousand feet of the perimeter of the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, or library, or any game arcade admission to which is not restricted to persons aged twenty-one years or older.” Additionally, (8)(b) stipulates that a “city, county, or town may permit the licensing of premises within one thousand feet but not less than one hundred feet of the facilities described in (a) of this subsection, except elementary schools, secondary schools, and playgrounds, by enacting an ordinance authorizing such distance reduction, provided that such distance reduction will not negatively impact the jurisdiction's civil regulatory enforcement, criminal law enforcement interests, public safety, or public health.”
    • Jay Jones (audio - 3m). A TV producer and arthritis cannabis patient, Jones gave his support for increased retail sites, saying that his daughter, a neuroblastoma cancer patient, had been authorized cannabis which “literally replaced nearly all the addictive narcotic medicines for my daughter.” He said that during his daughter’s treatment he frequently “had to drive around town to find the right products and the best deal that we can afford.” Jones called on the Council to allow “more stores,” expressing his hope that they’d also hold medical cannabis endorsements thus creating “more quality time spent at home for cancer families like mine.”
    • Shawn Kendarie (audio - 2m). Kendarie shared his “displeasure with the city council of Everett for attempting to limit marijuana stores.” A medical cannabis patient, he believed that more retail locations meant “more options, especially if they’re staffed appropriately and medicinally endorsed.” Kendarie also thought that Everett benefitted from keeping “all the taxes for the people who live here instead of giving it away to other cities.”
      • On October 13th, the WSLCB issued an updated version of its “Local Government Distributions” spreadsheet which details the allocation of $15M of cannabis excise tax dollars per year amongst Washington cities and counties, including individual distributions since fiscal year (FY) 2016. The new version included estimated FY 2021 distributions, and the City of Everett was expected to receive $192,219.84, continuing a downward trend from its largest distribution of $222,638.51 for FY 2018. Surrounding Snohomish County was also expected to see a decrease as compared to earlier years, but still was estimated to receive $995,123.24.
    • Barry Windsor (audio - 2m).
  • Council members asked questions and offered comments before voting on a motion to increase the number of medically endorsed stores in the city while maintaining existing buffer zones between retailers.
    • Tuohy brought CB 2009-49 up for a “third and final reading,” telling council members the legislation would amend the City’s current cannabis retail ordinance in Everett Municipal Code 19.39.145 to permit “not more than eight” locations (audio - 1m).
    • Stalheim offered “no additional comments” but reminded the Council that there were two versions of the ordinance they could adopt: one increasing locations and reducing the buffer distance to 500 feet, and another increasing locations while maintaining the existing buffer of 2,500 feet. He added that Mayor Franklin did not support the proposed version with a buffer reduction (audio - <1m).
    • Council members first asked a couple of questions.
      • Bader asked whether section (1)(C)(13)’s requirement that “any retail marijuana store hereafter established shall be certified as a medical marijuana provider” was referring to the WSLCB’s medical marijuana endorsement. Stalheim called them “one and the same” (audio - 2m).
      • Murphy also inquired about medical endorsements, saying they’d previously been “briefed that none of the five stores, the retailers, were selling any of the medical products, that they were all selling recreational products.” He asked whether shops with medical endorsements were “required to sell the medical products, or is that just an optional thing?” Murphy said that council members had talked about “hypothetically if we were to approve the either stores, the additional three would all have to have the medical endorsement” but it sounded as though implementing the requirements of the endorsement was optional. “Are we, sort of, operating under some sort of false impression about how these stores might operate," he asked, which may not provide “these medical options in our community” (audio - 5m).
        • Stalheim responded that he’d come into the conversation late and lacked "a real answer to it, my understanding was that they had to carry it. There's a requirement that they have a consultant on board as well, but they don't always have to be there for the full hours." He explained that he’d sent answers to earlier questions to the Council on October 8th.
          • RCW 69.50.375 states: “(3) To be issued an endorsement, a marijuana retailer must...(b) Carry marijuana concentrates and marijuana-infused products identified by the [Washington State Department of Health (DOH)].”
          • However, it’s Cannabis Observer’s understanding that compliance with this law may not be enforced due to many confounding factors including:
            • Additional producer and processor costs to obtain DOH endorsement of medical products
            • A corresponding dearth of medical products on the marketplace at uncompetitive prices
            • Uncertainty about retailer inventories due to lack of confidence in the State’s traceability system
            • A corresponding low enforcement prioritization by WSLCB
            • All of which may be exacerbated by a failure to encourage patients into the regulated marketplace in sufficient numbers to shift this dynamic
        • Stonecipher told council members that an "additional fee...is required" for an endorsement, and that endorsement holders were required to employ a cannabis consultant who doesn’t "have to be there all the time, but I think their hours have to be posted.” She said this didn’t “mean that necessarily...that that will be a huge part of their business.” Her understanding was that medical cannabis was “in lesser demand” and that only "a few stores statewide have focused on medical products.”
    • Bader moved to conclude the public hearing (audio - 1m) and Vogeli presented a motion to adopt the ordinance while preserving the 2,500 foot buffer (audio - <1m).
    • Council members shared their views on the measure ahead of the final vote.
      • Stonecipher offered her perspective as Chair of the Council’s Public Safety Subcommittee (audio - 8m).
        • Stonecipher said the Subcommittee heard "a pretty thorough report" from Chief Templeman which showed that emergency calls to cannabis retailers in the city were "equal to or less" than “similar calls to retail outlets” selling alcohol, which were more abundant in Everett. In all, she felt public safety threats were "not a compelling issue for cannabis stores.”
        • Another concern was "availability of products to our youth," but Stonecipher pointed out a decline in underage cannabis use according to the state’s Healthy Youth Survey (HYS). She also noted WSLCB’s 2019 Annual Report found compliance rates for refusing sales to minors by cannabis retailers were "universally higher" over the reported years than for any other controlled substance in the state with 96.2% compliance during fiscal year 2019 compared “very unfavorably” to 84.2% for alcohol.
          • The WSLCB Board received a detailed report on the agency’s prevention and public health programs, including HYS, on January 8th.
        • From an economic perspective, Stonecipher argued "the State has done a huge disservice to all of us" as Washington had established "a legalized monopoly." She generalized that "in a consumer-based economy...consumers generally do better when there's more competition and there’s generally more products available to consumers" whereas sellers “have to compete for business” and “prices tend to go down." Stonecipher alleged that "illegal, politically motivated mailers" had been distributed, perhaps from "one of the current store owners in our community" who did “not want us to expand this.” She was “not comfortable” as an elected official “maintaining a monopoly in our marketplace.”
        • Stonecipher planned to support the expansion for "three people who are on the list" and to maintain the distance buffer to avoid “concentration in one certain area or another” which would also “benefit the current store owners.”
      • Bader agreed with maintaining the existing buffer distance and said he’d supported the original vote in favor of five retail stores, but expressed overriding worries (audio - 4m).
        • Bader said, "I'm concerned about adding additional stores and the image it gives Everett" as “under the proposal the city would “have about half the stores in [Snohomish] County."
        • Noting comments from patients, Bader said two Everett stores had a medical endorsement and two other endorsed retailers were “just across city limits in the County.” He lamented that Everett officials had been “getting pressure" while other municipalities in the region hadn’t. "It seems like it's time for proponents of mairjuana and medical marijuana to step it up...and get our fellow jurisdictions on board,” said Bader.
        • Bader suggested that it “says a lot about marijuana itself” that other jurisdictions weren’t seeking retail expansion and he was doubtful Everett would be “seeing any significant tax increase" from the move.
        • Bader intended to oppose the expansion, but “would certainly consider it” if neighboring jurisdictions moved ahead with more stores and the issue became “more normative.”
      • Roberts described himself as being in concurrence with Stonecipher’s arguments, adding that he saw the importance of having retailers "really drive out the black market." He said evidence from the WSLCB and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) proved that “these facilities have been good neighbors" (audio - 2m).
      • Vogeli followed up on Bader’s interest in neighboring cities to share that the Lynnwood City Council had recently taken up the issue. Other jurisdictions would “come around...it's a business." Everett’s retail expansion would create “three more brick and mortar businesses that pay taxes and business fees." Vogeli said one retailer had “really perked up the cleanliness in the surrounding neighborhoods” and, as the widow of someone who went through cancer, she viewed retailers as an essential business, especially “in the time of COVID” (audio - 2m).
        • On September 14th, the Lynnwood City Council agreed to review the City’s cannabis retail establishment ban at a future work session.
      • Murphy conveyed that he was "somewhat surprised at the lack of problems" around retailers presented by Templeman to the Public Safety Subcommittee. He was satisfied that “if any of the other five existing stores were to later be replaced by a new applicant or a new licensee that they would also be required to obtain the medical endorsement.” He also agreed with others’ comments that “having five companies in our town that get a benefit by having governmental restrictions that hold back other participants” wasn’t “something I think we should be in the business of doing” (audio - 2m).
      • Moore said the motion symbolized a “strange crossroads for me, I'm still a skeptic.” He called attention to "the green mile" south of Everett while applauding retailers who were “responsibly providing medical marijuana access” and critiquing “those who don’t, and are focused on the recreation” (audio - 5m).
        • Having not heard concerns about “a lack of access that so many people had testified in the past,” Moore was optimistic but nonetheless doubted the City would see “a cashflow of new revenue” from the ordinance change. He supported the requirement that “from this point forward that they’re required [to obtain] the medical endorsement and I will be critical in looking forward” at new retailers serving a product “variety that is necessary to meet” patient needs.
        • He said he disliked that the original ordinance didn’t provide Everett churches the same distance requirements of other facilities with children, as it “didn’t recognize the religious community in our city.”
    • Staff took a roll call vote on the version of CB 2009-49 which would increase the number of medically endorsed retail establishments but not modify buffer zones, and a majority voted in support of the measure’s passage (audio - <1m).

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