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Council votes to expand access to retail marijuana, limits production and processing in unincorporated areas

Summary

“Today’s action improves access and equity in King County’s fledgling marijuana industry, by allowing retail stores in locations throughout King County in areas where it was previously prohibited”

Story

The Metropolitan King County Council adopted legislation to allow retail marijuana stores in geographic areas where none exist currently; to require separation between retailers in areas where multiple shops already exist and to limit growing, production and processing facilities in the rural areas to zones with lots of 10 acres or larger. Production and processing facilities continue to be allowed in previously-permitted zones such as agricultural and industrial areas. The action also called for a broader study of marijuana land uses in unincorporated King County, including further potential expansion of retail in neighborhood business zones.

“Today’s action improves access and equity in King County’s fledgling marijuana industry, by allowing retail stores in locations throughout King County in areas where it was previously prohibited,” said Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who helped to shepherd the ordinance through debate and final passage. “This will provide better access for marijuana patients and customers, while taking pressure off the small unincorporated urban areas like Skyway and White Center that have seen a concentration of multiple stores. In addition, the Council added a requirement that marijuana retail stores locate at least 1,000 feet apart, which will further limit the increasing concentration of stores in small, lower-income areas of urban King County.”

In addition to expanding retail opportunities, the ordinance addresses challenges with production and processing facilities locating in primarily residential areas, removing a source of conflict between potentially incompatible uses.

A study by the University of Washington recently found that the amount of marijuana allowed to be grown by state-licensed producers in Washington is enough to satisfy both the medical and recreational marijuana markets. At the same time, the recent closure of medical dispensaries has affected patients’ ability to continue to obtain a supply of medical marijuana products. The Council’s vote today balances expanding access to retail marijuana with protection of existing neighborhoods who are bearing the impact of this new and growing market, while continuing to allow production and processing in large parts of King County, covering tens of thousands of acres in multiple land use zones.

Councilmember Balducci praised the process by which the compromise legislation was enacted after a 5-3 vote: “This was truly a team effort. Multiple councilmembers added amendments and language that improved the final product, including establishing the County’s intent to continue to expand retail access, and to study the growth of the industry in the coming months and years to confirm that the County’s land use allowances provide sufficient ability to site retailers, producer and processers.”
Contact the Council
Main phone:
206-477-1000
TTY/TDD:
206-296-1024
Email:
council@kingcounty.gov