Kirkland imposes new temporary marijuana zoning regulations

The Kirkland City Council meeting was packed full of residents during a hearing about Marijuana retail regulations in the city. Those opposed to retail on Market Street wore yellow scarves in solidarity.  - Raechel dawson, Kirkland Reporter
The Kirkland City Council meeting was packed full of residents during a hearing about Marijuana retail regulations in the city. Those opposed to retail on Market Street wore yellow scarves in solidarity.
— image credit: Raechel dawson, Kirkland Reporter

The Kirkland City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday that replaces the marijuana interim zoning regulations that were originally passed in early February.

Ordinance 4439 temporarily prohibits marijuana retail shops in the Market Street Corridor (MSC) 1 zone and the MSC 2 zone, which was previously excluded from the ban.

Properties that abut the designated Kirkland School Walk Routes are also exempt from having marijuana shops.

But instead of only taking away places for marijuana retail shops, the ordinance adds an additional three new zones for pot-shop hopefuls.

The Light Industrial Technology zone and Totem Lake 7 and 9 zones, once available for processing and producing licenses, are now viable locations for marijuana sale per city law.

This ordinance was greeted more warmly than the previous ordinance by council and community members alike.

"The fact is, at least my impression, was that people were concerned by eliminating the MSC 2 zone, that we would lose a fourth of the possible locations [for marijuana retail]," said Councilman Toby Nixon at the Council meeting. "By adding the light industrial zones, we reached a compromise."

At least 12 Market and Norkirk neighborhood advocates, many in yellow scarves, spoke at the public hearing, which lasted nearly two hours.

Several voiced support for the compromised approach and many encouraged council members to continue research with a strategic task force on permanent zoning codes that involved all of the stakeholders.

"I think it's great," said Market neighborhood resident Kirstin Larson after the ordinance passed. "I think the council did a good job of looking at solutions for people trying to find retail as well as listening to the concerns of the community."

Kirkland resident Sharon Whitson, the general manager of Seattle Hempfest and medical marijuana user herself, also praised the city and community for working together.

"I think that this is the time for cannabis medical patients as well as recreational users to really stand up and show that we're good citizens," Whitson said. "We're parents, I'm a PTA class mom for all six years of my son's elementary school, a cancer survivor, but I also want to protect our children as well."

Whitson said she's proud the council decided not to ban recreational marijuana outright like many other cities in Washington and that they're being mindful of the traffic impact that cities in Colorado have experienced.

But not everyone was pleased with the ordinance.

Two testifiers at the public hearing said they were concerned because, despite the addition of the tree industrial zones, they believe the interim regulation still isn't a solution to the hardship marijuana license applicants are facing.

"I think this map is extremely restrictive," said Highlands neighborhood resident Laurent Bentitou, who is also in the marijuana industry. "… I've worked with the Liquor Control Board almost daily for the last part of the year, providing advisory council for them."

Bentitou said although he agrees that marijuana retail shops shouldn't be in the Market Neighborhood or near school walk routes, he said that many of the businesses in the available will not lease to marijuana business owners while recreational marijuana is still illegal on a federal level.

Juanita resident Bobby Mulder is also concerned the city is cutting off a lot of options for marijuana retailers when the availability is already slim.

"Before I lived in Kirkland, I lived in the University District … and there's about 15-25 churches and co-op based elementary schools," Mulder said, "and the decade I was there, I would see groups of 30, 40, 50 sometimes 100s of elementary school children walking past several medical marijuana stores with no problems at all."

The council also passed two amendments that struck down extra measures for marijuana odor control and the requirement of additional security features, such incorporating a wall-attached safe.

Prior to passing the ordinance, the council asked city staff to develop several scenarios for new interim regulations. Other scenarios excluded sales within 100 feet of a single or multi-family residence and the exclusion of allowing sales in the light industrial technology zones, which were not adopted.

"I'm really satisfied there's such a variety of views," Councilman Dave Asher said at the public hearing. "Nothing is locked in concrete. We are beginning a learning process that will go on for probably the next five years. Have we got it right? Probably not. Will we adjust along the way? Certainly, we will. The great part about local government is that it's responsive. Sometimes the problem with local government is it's responsive. But we'll figure that out as we go."

For more information on the city's marijuana laws, visit


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