The first legal marijuana shops in the state opened earlier this month, but in Gig Harbor, the issue of selling pot is still a bit hazy. On Monday, a meeting on the issue was met with a colorful protest.
Gig Harbor put a moratorium on marijuana sales in place back in April.
Even so, it seems that every time a 'for sale or rent' sign for retail space goes up in the town, people start to worry that a pot shop might be moving next door.
When people who live on Burnham Drive between 112th and Woodhill started hearing their neighborhood could soon be zoned for legal marijuana sales, they weren't happy.
We just want to be careful and know what's going on and have a voice and some public input, said Todd Nichols, who lives in the area.
He was one of many who packed into a council work session on the issue on Monday afternoon.
There was no public comment period at the meeting, but Nichols and others wore red in opposition to the pot shops. Some also held hand-made signs that said 'not in my neighborhood.'
They listened as staff from the planning department briefed council members on the options they have when it comes to writing and approving an ordinance that would regulate marijuana shops.
The ordinance would set buffer zones and require marijuana shops to be certain distances from schools, parks, playgrounds, and even each other. It's up to council to determine what those buffer zones should be. One council member pointed out that the devil is in the details when it comes to zoning.
I think they're doing a good job debating and discussing it, said Nichols, thought he wishes the crowd would've been allowed to ask questions.
Staff also told council they could seek feedback from the public through an advisory ballot measure on the November ballot. Lawyers told council they wouldn't be bound by the results of that ballot measure, but could simply use the results to gauge the feeling of the community as a whole.
Several times during the meeting, council members reminded each other that retail marijuana sales are legal in this state, and that the time has come to set some ground rules for how it will work in Gig Harbor.
At least one businessman is ready and waiting to open a pot shop in Gig Harbor. He was at the meeting, as well.
In the end, council instructed staff to begin the process of drafting an ordinance that would regulate retail marijuana sales in Gig Harbor, but it's only a first step. That ordinance would first have to undergo public review, and ultimately be approved by council.
I think they did get the message that people are concerned and want to have a voice, said Nichols.