[dropcap class=”kp-dropcap”]S[/dropcap]an Juan Islands in northwest Washington State are a well-loved home to many and a tourist destination to others. Visitors and residents often enjoy whale watching, hiking, biking, kayaking and other adventurous activities on the islands. While cannabis businesses aren’t completely banned on the islands, the San Juan County Council decided on May 21 to continue its six-month hold on licensing cannabis cultivation or processing businesses.
The council was required by law to conduct a hearing on its cannabis moratorium within 60 days of enacting it back in April. According to the county’s Resolution No. 1-209, “[. . .] the San Juan County Council desires to receive input from the community, recommendations from the Planning Commission and a proposed work plan from the Department of Community Development, and develop appropriate regulations for licensed marijuana production and processing.” Council Chairman Jamie Stephens reiterated the intention of the hearing. “This is not concerning new regulations, but about the moratorium,” Stephens said.
Citizens of Lopez Island shared both support and opposition of the current moratorium. Resident Kurt Fuller, a member of a group called Say No Lopez, shared that the benefit of the moratorium would be to disallow businesses from operating in a way that could potentially threaten the fragile environment of the islands. “I think the moratorium is a much-needed tool to allow time for reasonable regulations [to be] established that all county residents can live with,” Fuller said. “I think those regulations should include but not be limited to a ban on tier 3 grow operations due to the impact on sensitive island resources.”
“I think those regulations should include but not be limited to a ban on tier 3 grow operations due to the impact on sensitive island resources.”
The moratorium was enacted after cannabis farm proposals were submitted to Lopez officials. A majority of the San Juan County Council voted to enact this six-month moratorium on cannabis manufacturing and production facilities in April. However, Councilmember Rick Hughes opposed the ban, explaining its potential impact on current cannabis business operations if they choose to expand or sell.
Joey King, deputy prosecuting attorney, commented at the hearing, saying that the hardest work still lies ahead. “So now that the public hearing is over, the easy part of adopting a moratorium for six months is complete, and you can move on with deciding what to do when the six months are over,” King said. Councilmember Bill Watson replied that the council will reach a conclusion in time, stating, “We have to do something prior to that date.”
The area’s cannabis moratorium, as it stands currently, is set to expire on Oct. 2. Hopeful cannabis entrepreneurs who’d like to operate or expand businesses on the islands now must wait to get clarity toward their next steps.