Cannabis Law Prof Blog

Editor: Franklin G. Snyder
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Seattle Relaxes Buffer Zones Around Cannabis Dispensaries

ASome new neighborhoods may be getting marijuana dispensaries in Seattle, thanks to a decision by the City Council to reduce buffer zones around cannabis-related businesses.  A combination of zoning rules and the state's default 1,000-foot buffer zone rules meant that large chunks of the city had no such businesses.  That's changed, as of yesterday:

On Monday, the City Council unanimously set buffer zones for producers and processors at 250 feet.

For retailers, the new buffer will be 250 feet downtown and 500 feet elsewhere in the city.

No more than two pot businesses can be within 1,000 feet of each other.

The 1,000-foot buffer had led to vast areas of the city without marijuana businesses and clusters in areas like SODO, where James Lathrop runs Cannabis City, the first legal marijuana store to open in Seattle.

"We're a block away from the dump. We're here because of this crazy zoning," Lathrop said.

Lathrop was among the marijuana business people who advocated for smaller buffer zones.

Supporters said loosening the buffer zones will help the state's legal marijuana system succeed by competing with the illicit market, and make it more available to visitors.

Some in the industry are also opposed to smaller buffer zones.

They urged the council to slow down, arguing that pot shops in more neighborhoods could lead to public backlash and businesses failing under competition.

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