Washington Marijuana Policies
State of Washington Marijuana Policies
Cities, towns, and counties in Washington State can choose to prohibit or to designate appropriate zones for state-licensed marijuana businesses because Washington local governments have authority to enact legislation regulating land uses within their jurisdictions. However, it is the State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) that has final authority over whether to grant or deny the license to operate in Washington State.
Cities, towns, and counties can file objections to the granting of a state license at a particular location and the Liquor and Cannabis Board must “give substantial weight to objections,” but it is still up to the LCB to make the state license decision. See RCW 69.50.331(10).
This section provides an overview of the land use related statutes regulating marijuana businesses in Washington state.
Minimum Buffer Distance
RCW 69.50.331(8) requires licensed marijuana producers, processors or retailers to be located at least 1,000 feet from the following entities:
- Elementary or secondary school;
- Recreation center or facility;
- Child care center;
- Public park;
- Public transit center;
- Library; or
- Any game arcade (where admission is not restricted to persons age 21 or older).
The 1,000 feet buffer distance must be measured as the shortest straight-line distance from the property line of the proposed business location to the property line of any of the entities listed above. See WAC 314-55-050 (10). Definitions for the entities are found at WAC 314-55-010.
Local governments may reduce the 1,000 feet buffer to 100 feet around all entities except elementary and secondary schools, and public playgrounds by enacting an ordinance authorizing the distance reduction. See RCW 69.50.331(8)(b).
Residential Properties and Small Rural Parcels
The State Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) will not issue licenses for marijuana producers, processors, and retailers on property that is used as a residence because law enforcement officials must have access to the premises for inspections without a warrant (WAC 314-55-015(5)). However, note that state law still allows a medical marijuana patient or caregiver to have a designated number of marijuana plants located within a residence. See RCW 69.51A.040.
Local governments are specifically authorized to prohibit licensed marijuana businesses on lands zoned for residential use or rural use with a minimum lot size of five acres or smaller. See RCW 69.50.331(9).
Local Zoning Ordinance Approaches across Washington State
City and county zoning measures adopted since initiative 502 was approved are diverse. Some jurisdictions have enacted total prohibitions, while others have allowed marijuana businesses in appropriate zoning districts (retail marijuana businesses in retail zones, outdoor marijuana production in agricultural zones, and indoor marijuana production and marijuana processing in industrial zones). See the statewide map below with links to ordinances, to learn which jurisdictions are zoning for marijuana businesses and which have prohibited them.
Most jurisdictions that allow indoor marijuana production in warehouse-type structures, such as Moses Lake or Ellensburg, have limited them to manufacturing and/or industrial zones. Some urban jurisdictions, like Vancouver, have chosen to allow all marijuana businesses only in industrial or light industrial zones – to keep them tucked away where they will be less obvious or controversial. Additionally, some cities, like the city of Newport, require a conditional use permit process and impose conditions concerning issues such as odors emanating from the property.
Counties have also adopted a variety of minimum lot sizes and setback requirements for marijuana production, which MRSC has compiled in a comprehensive list. The data was gathered from online county codes and ordinances November 2016. See List of Washington County Minimum Lot Sizes and Setback Requirements for Marijuana Production (xls).