Washougal survey: Majority support cannabis retailer, fireworks restrictions

City manager says city council 'has not yet discussed what, if any, follow-up discussions there might be regarding the retail marijuana sales topic'

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Marijuana products are seen here at Sticky's Pot Shop on Thursday, July 12, 2018. (Courtesy of The Columbian files)

The majority of respondents to a recent community survey said they would support recreational cannabis retail sales in the city of Washougal.

The survey, created by the ETC Institute, a Kansas-based consulting firm, and sent to a random assortment of Washougal households in 2022, contained 27 questions seeking feedback about various city services and regulations, including a 2012 decision to prohibit recreational cannabis retailers, producers and processors within city limits.

Fifty-seven percent of survey respondents indicated that they would support retail marijuana sales in the city, with 48% supporting marijuana processing and 47% supporting marijuana production.

“The Council has not yet discussed what, if any, follow-up discussions there might be regarding the retail marijuana sales topic,” Washougal City Manager David Scott told The Post-Record. “It is possible the Council might address the topic at some point. I did not personally have any specific expectations regarding what the feedback from the community would be on this issue. As always, the Council and I are very interested in the community feedback represented in our community surveys.”

Washington voters legalized the production, processing and retail sales of recreational cannabis in November 2012, but allowed cities to regulate or prohibit recreational cannabis retailers, growers and processors within their city limits. Under the state’s rules, the cities of Washougal and Camas are each allowed one recreational cannabis retailer, but both cities have blocked those allowed retailers from opening within the cities’ jurisdictions.

Washougal City Council members voted to indefinitely extend the city’s ban on recreational cannabis retailers, producers and processors in 2016.

The community survey that went out to Washougal residents in late 2022, noted that “cities that allow production, processing and retail sales of cannabis receive a portion of the generated excise tax from the retail sales, which can be used for government services, including public safety,” and asked survey-takers to mark “yes” or “no” on cannabis sales, production and processing.

“We can allow one store. There’s a license for one store, pursuant to state rules, if we allow it,” Scott said a Sept. 12, 2022, Council workshop. “If we allow all of the uses, then we get a portion of the excise tax from the retail sales. We can use it for any government service, including public safety. But in order to get the revenue, we have to allow them all. And just as an example, Battle Ground has a store, and in 2021, (the city) received $46,000. Now there is new legislation that might increase that number.”

Scott has said the survey responses will not trigger Council action.

“Let’s say that the community comes back on this and overwhelmingly says ‘yes.’ That doesn’t mean the council has to change the ordinance. It’s just a data point,” Scott said. “Or, if it comes back resoundingly ‘no,’ that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t. It can’t hurt to ask the question.”

Brandon Brock, a 2000 Washougal High School graduate, won the Washington State’s Liquor Control Board’s lottery for a Washougal cannabis retailer in 2014. His application to open a retail store at 245 Sixth St. was rejected after the Washougal City Council banned recreational marijuana growing, processing and sales that year.

Brock still owns the city of Washougal’s only retail marijuana sales license under the trade name “Mary Jane’s House of Marijuana,” according to Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board records.

Brock, the owner of several Mary Jane’s House of Glass marijuana pipe retail stores in the Vancouver-Portland metro area, has said his proposed Washougal cannabis store would add 10 full-time and a few part-time jobs to the Washougal economy.

Brock had not responded to requests for comment in time for this newspaper’s print deadline.

Majority support fireworks restrictions

The survey also asked community members to weigh in on Washougal’s “safe and sane” fireworks ordinance.

Thirty-four percent of responders supported a complete ban, while another 34% supported the current restrictions. The remaining 32% of responders believe the City should overturn its current restrictions and restore its previous guidelines, which stated that all fireworks legal in the state of Washington were legal in Washougal and provided limits on the times when they could be used.

Fifty percent of responders indicated that they are not willing to pay more for service level increases, even though “many residents think some city service levels should (improve),” according to the survey results.

The survey found that satisfaction levels for most city services have decreased since 2020, with most of the decreases following national trends with the exception of water and sewer services. It also identified water utilities, economic development and street maintenance as areas for improvement.

The city will use the survey results in its efforts to develop a new strategic plan, which it aims to complete by the end of this year.

“We will be right in the middle of our strategic planning process” at the start of 2023, Scott said. “For the most part, we’ve wrapped up the engagement and outreach part, and we’re just super thrilled by the level of participation we received in surveys and open houses and community forums. We’re really grateful for that. Then, our consultants will be reengaging with us. They’re going to stir up all this information and start packaging it up for us, and as we head into the new year, we will be developing our new strategic plan with the Council.”