Marijuana, smoke shops will be public hearing topics

Camas City Council will hear from citizens Oct. 26

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Later this month, citizens will have the opportunity to comment on a zoning proposal related to the establishment of marijuana retailers within Camas city limits and another focusing on smoke shops.

The issues will be addressed during two separate Camas City Council public hearings, both scheduled for Monday, Oct. 26.

The Planning Commission recently held its own public hearings on both issues.

On Sept. 15, in a 3-2 decision the Planning Commission recommended that the City Council support the establishment of retail marijuana sales in portions of the city zoned community commercial and regional commercial.

Marc Elkins, owner of Elkgard Enterprises, is planning to open a marijuana retail business in Camas at 319 N.E. Lechner St., if the city’s moratorium, set to expire Nov. 30, is lifted. Elkins was selected in a Liquor Control Board lottery in 2014 to receive the one available retail marijuana license in Camas city limits.

Also on Sept. 15, in a separate vote, the Planning Commission unanimously decided to support allowing smoke shops in areas zoned community commercial and regional commercial.

In addition, the recommended language requires that smoke shops and head shops be sited a minimum of 1,000 feet from the perimeter of the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, playground, recreation center or facility, child care center, public park, public transit center, library or game arcade.

Since marijuana became legal with the passage of Initiative-502 in 2012, Washington cities have seen increased interest in the sale of drug paraphernalia that can typically be used for tobacco products as well.

Camas Smoke Shop, which sells smoking and vaping products, is located at 1410 N.E. Everett St., across the street from Crown Park and not far from Liberty Middle School.

Currently, there are no zoning regulations relating to the sale of paraphernalia used for tobacco or marijuana use, according to Community Development Director Phil Bourquin.

“Recently, the city allowed a smoke shop to open up in the community,” he told the Planning Commission. “There was community displeasure associated with that. The Council asked staff to look at a zoning scheme, look at appropriate zones for that and define that further.”

If the City Council decides to change the zoning regulations for this type of business, it would not impact Camas Smoke Shop in its current location.

“If we change the laws and it’s no longer a use that would be allowable, it becomes what we call a non-conforming use,” Bourquin said. “That means it doesn’t conform to our current regulations.

“As a non-conforming use, it would be allowed to continue in the same configuration, location it is currently located, but expansions, etc., would have to comply with regulations,” he continued. “The use runs with the land, not with the ownership.”

Planning Commissioner Jamia Johnson, asked whether the city could ban smoke shops all together.

“Even from a legal standpoint, there is nothing illegal with possessing paraphernalia that has never been used,” said David Schultz, assistant city attorney. “It is illegal to use paraphernalia to introduce a controlled substance, store a controlled substance, or otherwise introduce it into the body, but there is nothing illegal about possessing something that has never been used. I do not think it would be practical or legal to ban that type of item.”

The Camas City Council public hearings will begin at 7 p.m., at City Hall, 616 N.E. Fourth Ave.