On Monday, May 21, 2018, at 7:00p I attended the Lakewood City Council meeting with the sole purpose of being witness to our Lakewood City Council’s voting process regarding approving or banning cannabis shops in our city.
The following is my best effort to outline each council member’s vote and paraphrased remarks:
Mayor Don Anderson Vote – Ban cannabis shops.
Remarks: 1. As a member of council, I am charged with making the best decision I can for my constituency. 2. I see no advantage to our city for authorizing cannabis shops. 3. On three separate occasions (Law School, Navy, and Council Membership) I pledged to uphold all laws and the US Constitution. Based on that premise, I cannot vote to allow cannabis shops in violation of Federal law. Change needs to start with Federal law.
Deputy Mayor Jason Whalen Vote – Ban cannabis shops.
Remarks: 1. Something like 54 out of 103 cities have voted NO to allowing cannabis shops. 2. Mr. Whalen referred to State Representative David Sawyer’s effort to force Lakewood into either approving or banning cannabis shops instead of using local zoning law prohibiting businesses that are in violation of Federal law. To deal with outside political pressure Mr. Whalen moved to put the cannabis question on the city agenda. 3. Originally Washington State authorized 300+ cannabis shops with two cannabis shops authorized in the City of Lakewood. Washington State has now moved the number of authorized cannabis shops up to 500+. While currently only two cannabis shops are authorized in Lakewood, there is no guarantee that Washington State might change the number upward to 10 or more. 4. When the cannabis conversation first started, the law was murky as to whether a city could authorize, regulate or ban cannabis shops. With the passage of time, it has become very clear that a city may authorize, regulate or ban cannabis shops. 5. Mr. Whalen quoted several statistical sales figures for various nearby jurisdictions related to the sale of cannabis. He told the audience that the dollar figures indicate to him “access to cannabis” is not a problem. 6. The cannabis decision was not and never has been about chasing tax dollars. 7. The image of our city played into his decision. 8. The plea from Clover Park School District, the local business community, and the Lakewood Planning Commission to not allow cannabis shops were of significant influence in his decision making process. 8. It has taken Lakewood many years and much effort to improve our city image. Adding cannabis shops to our community will not help in the process to improve our city image. 9. Community image trumps extra tax dollar collection.
Michael D. Brandstetter – Ban cannabis shops.
Remarks: 1. I-502 focussed on decriminalization of marijuana. It did not mandate that Lakewood authorize cannabis shops. 2. Short term money is not a good trade for long term problems. 3. Lakewood has worked hard to overcome bad reputation as a city. 4. If Lakewood were to authorize cannabis shops inside the city, our city would provide cannabis buyers with the easiest on — off access off the I-5 corridor thereby increasing associated problems. 5. Cannabis shops in Lakewood would increase cannabis use in Lakewood. 6. The proponents for authorizing cannabis shops use the logic that Lakewood already has nefarious business operations such as alcohol stores, cigarette stores, and dance clubs, so why not authorize one more nefarious business (cannabis shops)? Mr. Brandstetter pointed out that the term nefarious is the proponent’s term, not his. Mr. Brandstetter was not swayed by that logic. 7. Marijuana is a violation of Federal law. If Lakewood authorizes a business in violation of Federal law then Lakewood would be placing their own police department in a problematic position of enforcing some laws and ignoring other laws. 8. Cannabis shops do not fit appropriately within the City of Lakewood’s written vision for our city. 9. Federal law regarding marijuana needs to change before Lakewood can consider authorizing cannabis shops.
Councilmember Mary Moss – Authorize cannabis shops.
Councilmember Marie Barth – Ban cannabis shops.
Remarks: 1. Ms. Barth entered the issue research process with an open mind. 2. Ms. Barth was back and forth in her thinking as she processed the flow of information provided to her. 3. Ms. Barth is voting to ban cannabis shops because cannabis shops do not provide a positive support for the city’s desired image. 4. Upon becoming a member of the Lakewood City Council, Ms. Barth took an oath to uphold all local, state and Federal laws. Marijuana is a violation of Federal law.
Councilmember Paul Bocchi – Authorize cannabis shops.
Councilmember John Simpson – Authorize cannabis shops.
Remarks: 1. There are two reasons for voting to authorize cannabis shops. Number one is we live in a democracy where majority rules. The majority vote was Lakewood 54%, Pierce County 57%, and Washington State 57% in favor of I-502. Thus we should give the voters what they want which means we should authorize cannabis shops. 2. While we should not chase tax dollars as a motivation for decision making, we should not ignore the opportunity for extra tax dollars. Cannabis tax dollars could be used as seed money for new programs like an anti-bullying program for Clover Park School District.
DISCLOSURE NOTE: It is my expectation that the open meeting law means citizens are allowed to visually observe and hear what is going on during an open public meeting. My expectation has not been met during the last two Lakewood City Council meetings because of two reasons.
Reason #1: The council chamber sound system is defective or perhaps poorly designed and often does not produce enough volume for audience members to hear. Alternatively the system produces loud feedback screeching.
Reason #2: Some council members and staff display an inability to consistently properly project their voices with sufficient volume to allow audience members to hear and understand what they are saying. Their verbal contribution is often unintelligible meaning they suffer from low projected volume or they mumble.
Because of reasons outlined in my disclosure above and because I may have inadvertently misquoted a council member, I encourage any council member to point out any needed corrections either by using the comment / reply function of the newspaper or by contacting me directly.
I sincerely want accuracy, especially when I am quoting / paraphrasing any council member comment(s).