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Westport Washington Cautious to Embrace Marijuana-Related Retail

Washington residents lit up under the Seattle Space Needle shortly after the state legalized marijuana in 2012.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

Washington made history in 2012 when it became one of the first states to make recreational marijuana use legal. The state government implemented a program to prepare the state for legalization that is slated to begin this year. Some communities are embracing the retail market for marijuana while others are more reserved and want to wait before introducing it into their towns.

In 2013, according to Seattle Business Magazine, “Seattle officials publically voiced their support for pot tourism.” It’s a sentiment echoed by entrepreneurs and pot enthusiasts across the state. The creation of marijuana tourism is difficult because of state laws, the drug can’t be used in public and there are anti-smoking laws which prevent employees from being around people smoking at an event. While there is a lot of talk about the potential for “pot tourism,” law experts and tourism professionals say it is too early to say if Seattle will actually “become the next Amsterdam.”

The state’s medical marijuana system is “largely unregulated,” as reported by the New York Times. In March, officials tried to pass legislation that would put the medical marijuana program in the hands of the state, a move that was opposed by the majority of medical marijuana patients and dispensaries. The bill didn’t make it through though house mainly due to disagreements over taxes in the legislation. Reintroducing similar legislation again won’t be attempted until next year, according to the New York Times.

Many counties and cities in Washington have more businesses bidding for marijuana retail licenses than the state has to give. On April 2nd, according to the Oregonian, “the state Liquor Control Board…adopted plan for…lotteries, which will be held for any cities or counties where there are more pot-shop applicants than licenses allotted.” The lottery is to be held between April 21 and April 25. It is being run by Washington State University and the Washington Lottery to ensure businesses are picked at random. The Oregonian reported that this is only one step in the process of obtaining a marijuana retail license, since every winner will have multiple requirements to meet in order to get their license

The need for a lottery highlights the many parts of Washington that are open to bringing marijuana revenue to their communities, but not everyone is so gung-ho. Westport is among those cities that are not ready to bring marijuana sales into their town, according to the South Beach Bulletin. In early March, Westport City Council extended a moratorium, for six months, to prevent the set-up of medical marijuana businesses and communal gardens. The two Public Emergency ordinances put a “moratorium on the location, licensing, permitting and operation of marijuana processing, marijuana producing, and marijuana retailing businesses within Westport City limits.”

The South Beach Bulletin reported that “the emergency moratoriums are deemed necessary by the City Council in order to provide sufficient time to study the impacts of marijuana-related businesses and medical marijuana collective gardens.” The City Council’s primary concerns include how the state legalization of marijuana is violating federal law and how secondary impacts could negatively affect Westport.