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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Strange Weedfellows


Chris B. Bennett
Chris B. Bennett

The recent news of a Pot Shop opening up right next to a Mt. Calvary Christian Center COGIC, which is located in Seattle’s Central Area, is alarming to many and not surprising to others. The Pot Shop, which opened last week, is the second retail location to open in the City of Seattle since voters approved I-502 last November.

The notion that the Pot Shop is next door to the church is an understatement considering that if one was to stand between the two buildings that they could reach out and touch both buildings at the same time. In essence, this Pot Shop is literally RIGHT NEXT to the church.

Pot Shops are regulated by the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) in Olympia. According to the WSLCB website, Pot Shops cannot locate within “1000 feet of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library, or game arcade that allows minors to enter.”  Note that there is no DIRECT mention of a church or religious facility in this policy. However, throughout our history all churches have served as community centers/recreational facilities that house programs/programming directly related to youth.

There is no doubt that the church is located within 1000 feet of the Pot Shop, but the church also has a teen center which is located right across the street and a privately owned daycare sits adjacent to the youth center, which according to the pastor of the church are both located within 1,000 feet of the Pot Shop.

Local religious and community leaders have come out against the opening of the Pot Shop next to the church and undoubtedly this issue will one way or another impact future policies both locally and nationally as it relates to where Pot Shops can and cannot setup shop. However, there are many questions that need to be addressed as it relates to this location in particular. Certainly, at the top of the list would be why was this shop allowed to setup next to a church in the first place?  Why was the church and the community not notified before a final decision was made by the WSLCB on the location? And why is there no direct reference to religious facilities included in the list of buffered areas surrounding retail marijuana sites?

According to the WSLCB website as it relates to the regulation of liquor stores in the state, when someone files for a liquor license the WSLCB will notify any church and school that is located within 500 feet of the business that is applying for the license and the church or school in question will have a chance to support or object to the application for the license. And per their policy, a liquor license may be denied by the WSLCB based on an objection from a church, school, or other public institution within 500 feet of the premises. This alone calls into question of why the same policy is not extended to marijuana licenses in the state.

I would  think that an investigation and a task force appointed by the Governor to look further into the policies and practices of the WSLCB as it relates to the issuance of retail marijuana licenses throughout the state are in order. On the surface alone, there appears to be too many coincidences and potential errors/mistakes as it relates to the establishment of the Pot Shop at this particular location that cannot go without questions, answers and more answers. We’ve often heard the saying that politics makes strange bedfellows, well now it appears that the politics surrounding retail marijuana sites in the State of Washington is making strange WEEDFELLOWS.

Through the eyes of an ink barrel, may peace be unto you!

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