EAST WENATCHEE — City leaders are still months away from deciding whether they want to allow marijuana businesses in East Wenatchee.
It will be at least two months before the City Council gets recommendations on new land use rules that could apply to such businesses, Planning Director Lori Barnett said Tuesday at a public hearing on the city’s moratorium on marijuana businesses.
Meanwhile, at least one business owner is interested in opening a business in the city. But he won’t be able to apply for a state license to operate a retail marijuana store if the council doesn’t make some decisions before the state Liquor Control Board begins accepting applications next month.
Businessman Mark McCants was the only person who spoke at the public hearing on East Wenatchee’s six-month moratorium, which was imposed last month.
Councilman Harry Raab asked why the city couldn’t just leave in place its current requirement that businesses seeking a license must comply with all state and federal laws. Since federal law still criminalizes marijuana, such businesses would be prohibited.
But Barnett said cities are being advised by lawyers not to take that approach because it could lead to legal challenges.
Councilman Wayne Barnhart said he is concerned that the city could lose federal funding if it goes against federal laws and allows pot businesses.
“I don’t want to jeopardize federal money for street projects,” he said.
Barnett said the city also received federal funding from Housing and Urban Development.
McCants told the council that if they ultimately choose to adopt new land-use rules that prohibit marijuana businesses, “I’ll accept it. I don’t want to ruin your federal funds.”
He added, “I’m just here as a businessman. … We’re in uncharted waters.”
McCants said he has identified a couple of possible locations for such businesses in the downtown area and talked with landlords about renting space.
But he can’t move forward without some idea of what the city is going to do.
Mayor Steve Lacy told McCants, “I have a lot of the same questions you have. I understand your issues.”
But he said the council wants to wait for the final state rules for marijuana businesses before deciding how to proceed. “Our moratorium is allowing us time to see how the state replies to some of the questions,” he added.