On Thursday, September 23rd, the Whatcom County Planning Commission will be considering changes to its recreational marijuana production and processing regulations. A copy of the agenda packet, which includes a Staff Memorandum and the proposed regulations, can be found here.
Whatcom County currently has 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 in regard to odor, noise and water usage. The proposed regulations are meant to replace the moratorium and address concerns regarding the impacts of marijuana businesses in unincorporated Whatcom County.
The proposed regulations would significantly increase the permitting requirements for new marijuana businesses. For example, under the proposed regulations, outdoor grows in the Rural and Agricultural Zones would require an administrative use permit and indoor grows would require a conditional use permit. Notably, only tier 1 and tier 2 facilities would be allowed in either zone; no tier 3 facilities would be allowed to locate in the Rural or Ag zones. The County has also proposed to limit the number of licenses allowed in these zones to one license per legal lot of record.
Although indoor marijuana facilities will continue to be allowed as an outright permitted use in the County’s industrial areas, other restrictive development regulations regarding odor control, landscaping, lighting, and noise are being proposed. Outdoor marijuana grows will be prohibited in all industrial zones.
If these new regulations are enacted, many if not most marijuana businesses in Whatcom County will become non conforming uses. The proposed regulations prohibit non conforming indoor production facilities from expanding and limit the expansion of outdoor grows to 10% in area. Thus, both existing marijuana licensees and those looking to locate facilities in unincorporated Whatcom County should pay close attention to this regulatory process.
For more information on the regulation of marijuana businesses in Whatcom County and throughout Washington State, please contact Heather Wolf.