On Tuesday, February 8th, 2022, the Whatcom County Council adopted amendments to its zoning code provisions, which regulate the production, processing and retail sales of recreational marijuana. A copy of Ordinance No. 2022-011 can be found here.
Last year, Whatcom County adopted a moratorium on the processing of permits for outdoor marijuana grows. The County enacted the moratorium in response to complaints from residents in the County’s rural areas primarily in regard to noise and odor. The new ordinance repeals the moratorium and more strictly regulates all aspects of marijuana production and processing facilities.
For example, in the Agricultural District, indoor grows are now prohibited and outdoor grows are only allowed with an administrative use permit. In the Rural District, outdoor grows are allowed with an administrative use permit and indoor grows would require a conditional use permit. Notably, the County has also limited the number of marijuana licenses allowed in these zones to one license per legal lot of record.
Although indoor marijuana facilities will continue to be allowed as outright permitted used in the County’s industrial areas, other restrictive development regulations regarding odor control, landscaping, lighting, and noise have been enacted; and outdoor marijuana grows are now prohibited in all industrial zones.
Given the number of preexisting licensed marijuana facilities in Whatcom County, many of these businesses will now be non conforming uses. Marijuana businesses legally existing as of February 8th, 2022, will be able to continue operations as nonconforming uses if they do not meet the standards of the new ordinance. Expansion of nonconforming indoor grows, however, is prohibited and any expansion of any other nonconforming marijuana buinsess is limited to 10% in area.
Like many other jurisdictions, Whatcom County is seeking to limit outdoor marijuana production and direct indoor production to its industrial areas. This represents a regulatory change for Whatcom County, and thus, both existing marijuana licensees and those looking to locate facilities in unincorporated Whatcom County will want to carefully review Ordinance No. 2022-011.
For more information on the regulation of marijuana businesses in Whatcom County and throughout Washington State, please contact Heather Wolf.