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1. At Monday’s city council meeting, the council voted unanimously to loosen restrictions on pot stores. The legislation, proposed by mayor Ed Murray and tweaked by council would change existing buffer requirements for stores from places like community centers, parks, childcare facilities, and arcades (basically places where kids are) to 500 feet down from the existing 1,000-foot buffer rule. (Federal law requires an 1,000 foot buffer between the shops and schools and playgrounds, so that standard will remain intact.)

The city’s intent is to generate more stores—which caused a little anxiety for existing retailers like Uncle Ike’s owner and Cannabis Organization of Retail Establishment (CORE) board member Ian Eisenberg, who testified “I urge caution when adjusting buffers…the buffers exist for a reason and have served their purpose well.” Another CORE representative and current owner, Logan Bowers of Fremont store Hashtag Recreation Cannabis, told council: “By relaxing the buffers and licensing 54 retailers, the council risks creating an environment of chronic business failure.” There are currently 21 stores in operation with 18 more licensed to go by the state and potentially 54 total authorized. Seattle’s existing stores are clustered mostly in Southeast Seattle (which has six stores) and North Seattle (which also has six.) The 18 new stores all found spots under the current 1,000-foot rule, Eisenberg noted.

Screen shot 2016 01 13 at 8.34.17 am biswrg

Uncle Ike: Ian Eisenberg

 

Council also added a new rule to regulate dispersion of stores, governing their distance between each other. The new regulation says there can be no more than two stores within a 1,000-square-foot area and the stores have to be 350 square feet from each other.

Council provided one exemption to all these rules: The buffer from the “sensitive”areas shrinks from 500 feet to 250 feet in downtown mixed zones, basically Belltown where there are currently no stores. Belltown is considered a go-to spot for tourists and evidently a missed opportunity for commercial pot sales.

Eisenberg, a board member at CORE, warned: “Belltown has serious substance abuse issues, and I fear the public backlash from introducing cannabis to alcohol impact areas could prove damaging to the industry as a whole.”

Medical marijuana activist Philip Dawdy testified that CORE’s testimony was “completely wrong” and pointed out that “23rd and Union is an alcohol impact area [itself] where Uncle Ike’s is located.” Dawdy said the purpose of last year’s changes to merge the medical marijuana industry into the recreational market was to create more viable store “not protect recreational [stores].”

Dawdy told council his group “enthusiastically” supported the Belltown 250 foot exemption, wanted the council to look at 250 buffers citywide, and also wanted council to reconsider bans of pot stores in historic districts like Ballard Avenue and Pioneer Square.

2. In his state of the state speech yesterday, Governor Jay Inslee came out in support of a new effort to get a minimum wage and paid leave measure on this year’s state ballot.

Inslee said:

Our economy is not working for everyone. On the one hand, we have the biggest boomtown in North America. On the other hand, we have working families and communities falling behind even though they’re working hard and doing a great job.

I’m seeing Washingtonians — hard-working people in every corner of this state — struggling with rising housing prices, with student loan debt, with medical bills.

That’s why I’m supporting the initiative that was filed yesterday that phases in a true minimum wage and provides paid sick leave for hard-working Washingtonians.

I stand on this rock-solid belief: If you work 40 hours a week, you deserve a wage that puts a roof over your head and food on the table. Period. And you shouldn’t have to give up a day’s pay if you or your kids get sick.

No direct shout-out from Inslee, though, on another initiative (or two) that's in play to address yet another Inslee priority he hasn’t been able to get done in Olympia, his cherished carbon cap.

Even though two carbon initiatives are on the table, Inslee simply said:

We also need to continue to take action on protecting our clean air and clean water, particularly from the threat of carbon pollution. In my mind’s eye, the older I get, the more beautiful Washington becomes. So I’m glad the needle is moving on this because this problem is not going away.

As for funding education, he didn’t mention that the state supreme court is currently holding the state in contempt for not fully funding education. He simply said the state has gone a long way toward the goal—putting in an additional $2.3 billion over the last four years (true)—and that the bipartisan group of legislators he met with all summer has introduced a framework and legislation “that contains the first step” toward completing the estimated $5 billion outstanding for teacher salaries “so we can be successful when we return next year.”

3. At a state house hearing on state representative Jessyn Farrell's (D-46, North Seattle) bill to protect the rights of pregnant workers (the legislation would provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as bathroom breaks, access to food and water, and temporary reassignment to lighter duty...stuff white collar woman might not realize blue collar workers can't take for granted), conservative state representative Matt Manweller (R-13) said the human rights commission (which would enforce the rules) can't be trusted.  Manweller noted that the commission is trying to enforce gender neutral bathroom rules for transgender people.

However, while conservatives like Manweller may be antsy, Farrell's bill got a surprise cosponsor on the senate side this week—right wing state senator Don Benton (R-17) signed on to state senator Karen Keiser's (D-33) companion bill.

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