Despite tight zoning, MI still draws pot shop applicants

Earlier this fall, the city released a zoning map effectively displaying that nowhere on the Island could entrepreneurs open a marijuana storefront. Still, as of last Tuesday, Dec. 3, there were two applicants for licenses on the Island—one for production, and the other an application for retail space.

“We’re not that surprised,” said Ross Freeman, communications manager for the city. “Not everybody does their homework.”

Mercer Island had been allotted one storefront, of 334 total proposed for the state. But because the new law prohibits retail within 1,000 feet of child care centers, playgrounds, public parks, transit centers, libraries, schools or recreation centers, nowhere on the Island is zoned to accommodate the retail applicant.

“Presumably the application would be denied” said Freeman. “It’s possible that the Liquor Control Board would interpret that 1,000 foot buffer differently than we have done on the Island. In that case, they would forward us the applicant… Then the city would have the choice of appealing or doing whatever it needed to do.”

Still an entrepreneurial spirit pervades. Freeman said a handful of people had inquired with the city, but once they learned the criteria, didn’t pursue it any further.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is accepting applications through Dec. 21 and has been updating its applicant list once a week, every Tuesday. Applicants are not yet required to share an address for their retail location, only personal contact information, so it is unclear where Mercer Island’s applicants intend to locate.

Background checks may also whittle down the list of eligible applicants. Snohomish, Spokane and King counties have had the most thus far. Seattle has received a total of 44 retail bids, but will only be allocated 21 stores.


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