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LETTER: Resident concerned about density of pot stores in White Center

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

III King marijuana store's parking lot is also used as a school bus stop [1]

The parking lot for this state-licensed marijuana store in Skyway is also used as an elementary school bus stop.

The parking lot for this state-licensed marijuana store in Skyway is also used as an elementary school bus stop.

As a result of the passage of Initiative 502 by voters statewide in 2012 and the incorporation of medical marijuana into the state-licensed system by the legislature in 2015 there are now 7 state-licensed marijuana stores in White Center. In Skyway there are 5 licensed marijuana stores, including one whose parking lot is used as a school bus stop. Meanwhile, right across the street, Seattle has been limited to 44 stores by the same state regulators. It would take 221 stores for Seattle to have the same density of stores as the state has licensed already in White Center and Skyway. Similarly across the street in Burien, the regulatory limit is only 2 stores. Burien’s population is estimated to be just over 49,000, versus approximately 35,000 in White Center and Skyway combined.

This is our government at work, but why is it so insistent on installing this new poverty industry so pervasively in these communities of color? One difference is that these are unincorporated communities directly governed by King County rather than a city government.

Let there be no mistake, local marijuana advertising at this level of intensity will have a desensitizing effect on children and youth to this adult drug. The negative effects of this ill-considered “regulation” of the industry will be felt in these communities for years to come.

I am deeply disappointed in the failure of King County government to act to impose a reasonable limit on the number of stores in its small communities in response to this issue. Community members have been reaching out to our local government since the Washington Liquor Control Board (its name at the time) selected 4 retail marijuana store sites between White Center and Skyway when 1 site for both would have been more in line with its regulation for a city with the same population. It seems in retrospect that when the number of voters affected is limited (the two unincorporated areas combined had less than 16,000 registered voters as of the 2012 general election) the small constituency involved faces an extremely uphill battle to sway the status quo in their government. It’s even more disappointing that this cluster of stores is being accomplished in 2016 in two of the most diverse communities in a county which has proudly named itself after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and that has with great fanfare adopted an equity and social justice mandate.

Mark Johnston
Unincorporated King County resident

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