LETTER: Reader responds to Jack Mayne’s Commentary on legal pot stores

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[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:]

NOTE: The following Letter is in response to our “The Mayne Problem” audio commentary by Jack Mayne on pot stores in south King County (click the “Play” button to listen):

I believe that marijuana should be legal for adults, well regulated and widely available. Unfortunately, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board has called the fairness of its regulation into question by the remarkable difference in the concentration of pot stores it will allow in neighboring communities in the south end.

As mentioned in the Podcast, the state has licensed 2 stores each in Des Moines (population approximately 30,000) and Burien (population over 49,000), the maximum it will allow under its regulation in both cities.

While also true that SeaTac and Kent have approved bans on sales, for the record Kent is allowed a maximum of 3 stores under WSLCB regulation and SeaTac is limited to 1 store.

Now turning the reader’s attention to White Center/North Highline, the WSLCB had already licensed 8 stores there prior to the moratorium recently passed by the King County Council. There seems no zoning rule or regulation in current King County Code that would prevent all of these stores from opening in White Center and remaining open indefinitely during or after the moratorium, even if subsequent zoning rules are passed that would have prevented them, since existing land uses must be grandfathered in as nonconforming uses unless that use is abandoned.

Now consider this: the greater White Center community (aka North Highline) has a population much smaller than either Des Moines or Burien. The unincorporated population that justifies so many retail marijuana stores in the eyes of the WSLCB is actually located in East King County, where more than 200,000 of the current unincorporated population of 252,000 lives. Skyway’s population is similar to North Highline’s, and their combined population exceeds the population of Des Moines by just 5,000 or so. Both White Center and Skyway are majority-minority communities in the ethnic makeup of our residents. By concentrating so many retail marijuana stores in such small and far-removed communities, the WSLCB fails to make them widely available to the entire population their number was intended to serve.

Second, even though state law mandates that pot stores may not be located within 1,000 feet of arcades that cater to all ages customers, the WSLCB has unapologetically sited 5 such stores within 1,000 feet of the Full Tilt Ice Cream arcade in White Center (4 in unincorporated King County and 1 across the street in Seattle).

In Skyway, another south King County unincorporated area, one pot store shares a parking lot with a school bus stop. For safety reasons, the bus stop isn’t subject to moving its location, since the roadway there is a state highway with a 50 mile per hour speed limit and moving the bus stop would require young children encounter that highway in ways the bus stop is there to prevent. There is no rule in state law nor WSLCB regulation governing school bus stops in relationship to pot. However this puts the elementary and middle school students that must use that bus stop in the position of compulsory exposure to all its advertisement daily during the school year. And there is already a nearby pot store at the same intersection that has purchased advertising on the two full-size highway billboards right across the highway there, also very visible at the school bus stop.

I do wholeheartedly concur with your commentary that pot stores should not be near where minors are allowed (or compelled) to congregate.

We in these communities do not all believe “that marijuana should be illegal and not available to anyone.” However we do believe that reasonable limits to the number of stores in a community are prudent. And those limits ought to be closer to 1 or 2 each in White Center/North Highline and Skyway than the 8 and 5, respectively, that the WSLCB has actually approved.

Dear reader, marijuana is an adult product, and marijuana businesses are in no way family-oriented. A greater concentration of stores in a small community will inevitably lead to greater exposure about marijuana to children. It would be best if children and youth could be spared from daily inundation with messages about marijuana until they are adults and can make an adult-informed decision about use of the drug.

After all, that’s the norm in more privileged neighborhoods, isn’t it?

Mark Johnston
Skyway resident

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil and, pending our review, we’ll most likely publish it.]

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13 Responses to “LETTER: Reader responds to Jack Mayne’s Commentary on legal pot stores”
  1. Jimmy says:

    OK Mr. Johnston so these areas of white center and skyway that have needed a source of income to fix up roads and other projects. A way to take these run down store fronts a way from criminal acts (graffiti,squatters,chop shops).

    A way to take the money out of the thugs,cartels and other people’s hands that live and illegally sell cannabis to any one in these areas and some times sell other drugs.

    Away to employ people that might other wise find it hard to get a job. But you think the county is doing all this to harm the people of these area’s.

    The people that a lot of them have use cannabis long before I-502 was around.

    A lot them that have kind of taken their time to start using the cannabis shops instead of street dealers.

    So As I have said before Mr. Johnston this kind of raises a question in my eye’s of who you really are trying to support here.

    I think kids and young adults should be taught the real facts about cannabis and that parents and teachers really need to update there education on the topic (not use there own political view)because now with cannabis being legal the truths are more proven.

    With all the nonsense over the years about cannabis and the fact that kids can find the truth pretty easy now of days and if you lie to them now they will be less likely to listen to you later on other topics.

    • Mark J says:

      The State of Washington, not the county, has been the primary actor in violating its own policies with respect to the location of retail marijuana stores in unincorporated King County. While I’m no fan of King County’s slow reaction to the high concentration of these stores in White Center and Skyway, I’m sure it sprung partly from a misplaced sense of trust in the fairness and even-handedness of the regulator, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board.

      In terms of money needed in White Center and Skyway for fixing up roads and other projects, I’m right there with you on that. Roads in unincorporated King County are funded by property taxes, not marijuana taxes.

      In fact, King County will have received almost $1 million in marijuana tax by the end of this fiscal year June 30. What do you think the county is going to actually spend that money on?

      • Jimmy says:

        Really so when someone wants to start cannabis shop they don’t go rent a location start the paper work with the state. Then the state figure out’s if all there paper work check’s out and there not in city with a ban or a city that has it allotted amount of stores. Then they approve that location.

        So how do you make the argument that the state is forcing these shop’s on to the low income or in poverty areas. When is up to the owners of the property’s and people interested in starting a shop that are finding these locations to rent and file the paper work to hopefully get approved. Not the state telling them where to go to set up a shop.

        Also your story on that bus stop next to a cannabis shop has the school district ask the parents of the students that ride that bus how they feel about the bus stop’s location.

        oh yeah searching the internet I can’t seem to find a mark Johnston living in the skyway area. But I have just started looking so who knows what will find.

        • Mark J says:

          It’s a pretty easy argument to make that the state has singled out White Center and Skyway for an unusually high number of stores for our population. Name any other community in the state where the concentration of stores is any higher.

          Answer: there is none.

  2. Lee Moyer says:

    To me these restrictions of where one can buy pot are arbitrary and rarely justified. Is there any actual evidence that pot stores need any more regulation or restriction than liquor outlets? The only justification I see is not to protect children but to keep the feds off our back.

    Since we passed Costco’s liquor initiative, booze is available in convenience stores, grocery stores, even some hardware stores. Children walking down the street or waiting for a bus are constantly exposed to ads for cheap booze and the glamorous life of Bud Light drinkers.

    Perhaps the difference in “legitimacy” is not public acceptance but the fact that some church use a ceremonial sip of wine in their service while none I know of use a token toke.

    • Mark J says:

      The reality, though, is that marijuana is a regulated industry just as hard liquor was for 78 years. The voters chose regulation when I-502 was passed.

      And, by the way, I-502 was passed *after* the liquor initiative.

      • Jimmy says:

        yeah there is currently 8212 locations to buy booze in Washington state not including bars,clubs,taverns ect

  3. Joshua davis says:

    There are currently 4 pot shops in top hat. I regularly drive my kids to school through there, and am now seeing more and more people driving under the influence. That is a high traffic area, and it’s only a matter of time until someone is killed.

  4. Jimmy says:

    Has anyone asked any of the cannabis shop owners why they picked white center over skyway is because of airport ( more travlers) or is rent prices or even love for the area.

    Or asked any of the shop owners how the state involvement in their process of getting approved went. Did the state tell them to go to unincorporated king county or forced them to like mark Johnston has expressed.

  5. Jimmy says:

    Looking at your letter Mr. Johnston I see you also mention 5 pot shops with in 1,000 feet of full tilt ice cream’s arcade in white center. But you don’t say anything about the adult video stores on that block or the smoke shops that have been known to sell little glass tubes/ pipes not the kind for pot but for meth/crack and other drugs. These locations have been around for years so have the medical cannabis shops in the area.

    Looking at the I-502 law there is a time period for counties and city’s to complain if they feel the location of a cannabis shop is not right for what ever reason. The county or city can ask for a denial of the application.

    • Mark J says:

      While you’re at looking at the I-502 law, I’m surprised this part hasn’t lept out at you (RCW 69.50.331):

      (8)(a) Except as provided in (b) through (d) of this subsection, the state liquor and cannabis board 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.

      • Jimmy says:

        Retail Stores
        copy and pasted from http://www.liq.wa.gov/mj2015/faqs_i-502

        Are there restrictions on where marijuana businesses can locate?

        You cannot set up a store within 1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter. Local authorities will also be notified and have an opportunity to object.

        Note: Recent legislation allows local governments to pass an ordinance to allow for a reduction in the 1000-foot buffer requirements to 100 feet around all entities except elementary and secondary schools and public playgrounds.

  6. Mark J says:

    You and anyone else interested can certainly find the Skyway West Hill Action Plan (SWAP) as proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine in his Executive Proposed 2016 King County Comprehensive Plan Update [1].

    Elsewhere in the main body, the proposed comprehensive plan says this about marijuana, by the way (Ch 2- Urban Communities):

    A) Zoning regulations can be used to reduce concentrated exposure to alcohol, tobacco and marijuana by regulating the number of outlets that can sell these products and advertising that is in view of the general public, and

    B) The environment surrounding a school and the routes a typical student travels to school or nearby school-related destinations also must be considered, including managing density of retail uses that primarily sell alcohol, tobacco and marijuana, and low-nutrition products; enhancing green space sites; creating safe areas to walk and
    bicycle to school; providing for transit and related facilities; and, reducing exposure to environmental toxins and other types of unsafe environments.

    The 2016 Comprehensive Plan update is on its way to becoming part of the county’s official policies as we speak. The concerns I have expressed in my letters are directly in line with these policies.

    [1] http://kingcounty.gov/council/2016compplan/transmittal.aspx

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