A last minute change in state rules will leave Capitol Hill — Seattle’s most densely populated, most walk-friendly neighborhood — without a retail pot shop. Marijuana retail regulations have solidified with only a few weeks to go before the Washington State Liquor Control Board votes to adopt the final I-502 regulations including revised zoning rules that seem to prohibit retail marijuana on Capitol Hill. However, at least one entrepreneur — who has asked to remain anonymous — tells CHS he is moving forward with plans to apply for a retail marijuana permit despite officials from the Department of Planning and Development saying it won’t happen.
Brennon Staley, DPD’s point-person on marijuana retail zoning, confirmed to CHS that pot retail on the Hill is unlikely, even along 15th where several cannabis entrepreneurs have planned to set up shop.
“Our initial analysis suggests that these rules are likely to prohibit any licensed retail stores in Capitol Hill,” Staley said via email.
Back in January it was clear that marijuana entrepreneurs eyeing Capitol Hill would face an uphill battle.
An early zoning map showed zero opportunity for marijuana retail in what would seem to be some of the most obvious places. The Center for Legal Cannabis developed this map that shows how the overlay of various legal zones made almost the entirety of Capitol Hill ineligible for marijuana retail. The map did show a one block area around 15th and Republican that could be the last opportunity for marijuana retail on the Hill.
The hopeful retailer that spoke to CHS but asked to not be identified said he was confident 15th would have a retail marijuana shop by next year as he and others are already working to secure leases for potential shops.
Over the past year different proposals came and went for retail marijuana zoning. A window of opportunity for retail cannabis on the Hill appeared to open when the liquor board announced it would calculate 1,000 foot buffer areas around marijuana shops by a “common path of travel” instead of “as the crow flies.” As part of the state law, marijuana shops must be 1,000 feet from parks and places where children frequently gather. That door closed when the U.S. Department of Justice insisted the state go back to straight-line measurements.
Earlier this month, the liquor board announced the state would permit 21 marijuana retail locations in Seattle and 334 statewide. Even with a straight line buffer rule, Staley said finding a Capitol Hill area in the clear for marijuana retail is practically impossible.
If Staley’s analysis is right, recreational cannabis customers on the Hill will likely have to trek down Denny across I-5 or to the Central District for the closest retailer. CHS previously reported on how 23rd and Union could be central Seattle’s “Little Amsterdam.” Under the new/old buffer rules, it appears that could still be the case.
Areas zoned for single-family and multifamily housing are definitely out for marijuana retail. Any of the thatched blocks or small orange areas in the map below could have retail marijuana if it wasn’t for any buffer rules.
Meanwhile, the Seattle City Council is considering legislation to add marijuana DUI to the city’s criminal code. Council Bill 117918 would make driving with any trace of THC a misdemeanor offense. The state legislature passed a similar law earlier this year. Putting the law on city books appears to be an effort to capture fines that would otherwise go to the county. Good to know given more people will be driving to do their pot shopping given the current lay of the land.
UPDATE: And, yes, we believe our reporting from earlier in the year still stands — 23rd and Union is poised to be Seattle’s “Little Amsterdam.”