The Woodland City Council will decide whether the city should allow cannabis retail stores in one of its commercial zones.
During a workshop at its March 7 meeting, the city council discussed the potential of allowing retail cannabis sales in the city’s highway commercial zoning designation. The allowance was recommended by the city’s planning commission in a 2-1 vote on Feb. 17.
At the center of the decision is 20 After 4, a cannabis shop that relocated to Woodland from Kelso and began operating in May against city zoning, which currently prohibits that type of business in all zoning types.
The business relocated from Kelso after its old building was purchased to make way for construction of a new bridge. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board then licensed the business to operate in Woodland. In February, an independent land use hearings examiner determined that the state board’s licensing did not supersede Woodland’s local statutes, determining 20 After 4 was in violation.
Per city code, 20 After 4 has faced fines due to its operation without a business license and in a zone prohibiting cannabis retail. The hearings examiner determined the city would be able to take further action by a number of legal means if the business continues to operate without a city code change.
Testimony received for the planning commission meeting included neighboring businesses and residents who stated the presence of increased surveillance at 20 After 4 has reduced crime in the area. The business itself provided a logbook of several hundreds of customers, many of whom were from outside of the city, who indicated their interest in patronizing other nearby businesses as well.
Testimony from the business stated it makes roughly $300,000 in sales including tax, and the business has hired nine employees since opening.
Woodland first implemented a moratorium on retail marijuana in 2013. Though the moratorium has since expired, it still is not a permitted use in the city.
During the council workshop, Woodland Community Development Director Travis Goddard said it was the second time allowing retail cannabis was brought before council since he started in January 2018. He said to his knowledge only one other business based in Woodland had a Liquor and Cannabis Board license, though they never opened up a store in the city.
Based on the city’s size, Woodland would only be able to have one retail business in city limits, Goddard said.
The majority of the council was not in favor of allowing retail cannabis.
Councilor Monte Smith said the nature at which 20 After 4 came into operation was his primary issue with making any changes that would benefit the business.
“I feel like this has been in the process for a while, and it’s very contentious right now because of circumstances surrounding it where there is a business operating without a license and going against the city ordinances,” Smith said.
Smith said he wasn’t against cannabis, but considering every other business goes through the permitting process before opening their doors, the approval of the change would give the appearance that 20 After 4 successfully flouted city code.
“There is a process that needs to be abided by. You let one (business) get away with it, and what else comes in?” Smith said.
Councilor Carol Rounds said cannabis is still illegal on the federal level.
“They’re going to get (cannabis) but I don’t really necessarily want it in Woodland,” Rounds said.
Councilor Jenn Rowland spoke in support of allowing cannabis retail in highway commercial zoning. Federal prohibition or not, Washington state voters approved cannabis’ legalization by voting for Initiative 502 in 2012, she said.
“We’re missing out on a lot of money by sending people out of town to go get it,” Rowland said.
Rounds said the tax revenue wouldn’t be too much, as the bulk goes to the state. Of the roughly $474 million in tax collected in fiscal year 2020, only $15 million went to local governments, according to the business’ testimony.
Rowland didn’t see downsides to the change. She said cannabis wasn’t hard to get in Woodland even when it was illegal statewide. She acknowledged the circumstances that led to 20 After 4’s relocation to Woodland which she felt should be taken into account.
“Policy works about 95% of the time, and the 5% when it doesn’t is when we’re here to make these adjustments and grow with it,” Rowland said.
The proposed change to zoning will come before the council for a vote at a subsequent meeting.
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