EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is an open letter by King County Executive Dow Constantine, written in response to a Letter to the Editor from Mark Johnston posted on our site site The White Center Blog on July 26, 2016 (read the original here ):
Dear Mr. Johnston,
I write in response to your open letter on the White Center Blog regarding the equity and social justice impacts of the County’s marijuana zoning. I share your concern that the benefits and impacts of marijuana legalization be equitably distributed across King County.
Immediately after passage of Initiative 502, I convened an interbranch team to analyze the many policy issues surrounding legalization. This team included staff from Executive agencies, Public Health, and the County Council, along with representatives from the Sheriff’s and Prosecuting Attorney’s offices. One of the team’s first tasks was to establish shared principles to guide its work. These included minimizing disproportionate siting and neighborhood impacts, and avoiding siting of multiple businesses in close proximity to one another.
The work of this team informed the development of my initial proposed marijuana zoning, which allowed retail stores in the County’s few remaining commercial zones. These zones are located in White Center and Skyway, but also in Fairwood and Briarwood, and in unincorporated areas near Duvall and Federal Way.
When it became clear that the private market was focusing development of retail shops in White Center and Skyway, I proposed an ordinance to address concentration impacts by requiring a 1000 foot buffer between stores. The County Council adopted the new 1000 foot buffer (along with grandfathering, which I did not propose), and called for further study to inform the County’s land use approach to legalization.
Efforts to disperse marijuana uses will not be successful without help from our regional partners. Many cities have enacted bans and moratoria on marijuana uses, placing more pressure for retail shops to locate in jurisdictions that allow them. I have raised this issue with the leadership of the Sound Cities Association, and will continue to encourage all cities to do their part to lay the foundation for fair and appropriate implementation of the state marijuana law.
There is no issue of greater importance to me and my administration than equity and social justice for all residents of King County. I appreciate your thoughts and I invite you and the Skyway and White Center communities to work with us as we continue to refine our approach to marijuana legalization.
King County Executive